Erdogan bargains with refugees in Syria land-grab

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to allow Syrian refugees to leave Turkey for Europe if his long-sought “safe zone” in northern Syria is not established. “We will be forced to open the gates.¬†We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone,” he told a meeting of his ruling party, the AKP, stating that Turkey “did not receive the support needed from the world.”¬†This is a reference¬†to is the promised¬†financial aid from the European Union,¬†and the provision of visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens, as part of the EU-Turkey deal¬†on refugees¬†struck back in 2016. Only half of the pledged¬†‚ā¨6 billion has arrived, according to Turkey, and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals has not yet been granted‚ÄĒlargely due to concerns about the human rights situation in Turkey.¬†In July, Ankara declared the refugee deal no longer under effect.

Turkey currently hosts some 4 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country‚ÄĒbut has for the past two years been denying entry¬†to those attempting to flee¬†Syria. The “safe zone” through Syria’s northeast is conceived as part of a larger Turkish-controlled¬†buffer zone¬†across northern Syria, ostensibly aimed at providing harbor for the displaced within Syria’s borders. But it would cut through the Kurdish autonomous cantons of¬†Kobani and Cezire, and is seen as a first step toward dismantling the Kurdish self-governing territory in the region.

US Central Command maintains that Kurdish militia forces have withdrawn from the strip along the Turkish border, acquiescing in establishment of the “safe zone.”¬†But the US and Turkey remain at odds over the width of the “safe zone,” with Ankara demanding 40¬†kilometers and Washington insisting on 10.¬† (Middle East Monitor,¬†Ahval)

Photo via Ahval