Turkey cannot handle 3 million more Syrians - U.S. Envoy

“Turkey cannot handle the influx of 3 million more people at its borders. It has a right to do what it needs to do in order to not experience this again, and we are here to evaluate all the ways in which we can help,” said U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey. 

Jeffrey arrived in Ankara on Tuesday for talks on Idlib. The U.S. delegation met Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal on Wednesday, state-run Anadolu news agency reported, adding that Jeffrey reiterated U.S. support for Turkey. 

“The United States completely concurs with Turkey that it has rightful and legal grounds regarding defending its existential interests against an influx of refugees, the fight against terrorism and finding a solution to the ongoing conflict with the war criminal [Syrian President] Bashar Assad,” the U.S. Embassy in Turkey quoted Jeffrey as saying.

Jeffrey said that both the U.S. and Turkey are to be more wary with the current attacks and developments, and that both the U.N. decision and the Sochi agreement, signed between Russia and Turkey in 2018 that aimed to prevent an assault by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in Idlib , were violated.

“Our goal is to show pro-Assad Russia, Iran and Syria that they will not achieve success, and that we should aim to develop progress in this matter without further conflict,” Jeffrey said.

Idlib is tightly crammed with more than 3 million inhabitants, many of whom are civilians who fled fighting elsewhere in the country, as well as thousands of rebels who have taken refuge in the last province that is still holding out against government forces.

Turkey and Russia signed an agreement to prevent a government attack on Idlib in September 2018 on the condition that Turkey cleared extremist groups from the northern province.

But the Syrian government, backed by Russia, resumed its assault on Idlib in April, saying the continued presence of extremist rebel groups had breached the agreement.