Turkey to send 3.6 million Syrians to EU if it calls Syria operation 'occupation'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticised the European Union on Thursday for failing to fulfil its commitments over a 2016 refugee deal and said Turkey would open its borders and send 3.6 million Syrians to Europe if it dubbed Turkey’s military offence in Syria as an occupation, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

“You are not honest. They say they will not send the second instalment worth of 3 billion euros. Have you fulfilled your promise up to now,” Erdoğan said, referring to a total of 6 billion euros in aid the EU pledged Turkey in a 2016 deal to cut the migrant influx into Europe. 

“If you try to define our operation as an ‘occupation’, our job is easy, we will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees to you,” Erdoğan said, referring to criticism of Turkey’s military offensive in northeast Syria launched on Wednesday.  

A declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU called on Turkey to cease unilateral military action in Syria on Wednesday, saying renewed hostilities in northeast Syria would undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday that if Turkish plans included the establishment of a safe zone in northeast Syria, Turkey should not expect the EU to pay for it.

Turkey says its military assault against Kurdish-controlled territories in northern Syria aims both to ensure its national security and the safe return of Syrian refugees in the country. 

Erdoğan said that Turkey wanted to change the demographics in the region to its state before the conflict began in 2011, adding that Turkey’s only intention was to provide conditions for the safe return of Syrians. 

Erdoğan said Turkish forces had “neutralised” 109 fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which Ankara sees as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The Turkish president also slammed Saudi Arabia and Egypt for their objection to the military operation.

“Saudi Arabia should look in the mirror. Who brought Yemen to this situation,” Erdoğan said. The president called Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi “the murderer of democracy”.