Erdoğan once again threatens to 'open the gates' for migrants to Europe

Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday repeated a threat to "open the gates" for migrants to Europe if international support for a refugee safe zone in northern Syria fails to materialise.

"How will Turkey bear the burden of 4 million refugees? If it does, it does, but if it doesn’t, sorry, but nobody should take offence; there will be no solution left but to open the gates. Should the onus remain on us alone to always be considering [this matter]?,’’ Milliyet newspaper quoted Erdoğan as saying while addressing members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey’s central province of Eskişehir.

Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

The Turkish president on Thursday had said that Ankara was ready to lift the gates to the country’s refugees in the absence of the envisaged safe zone in neighbouring Syria, where renewed fighting in the northwestern province of Idlib in recent weeks has raised prospects of another wave of refugees at its’ borders.

Turkey has called for a safe zone to ensure security on its border running east of the Euphrates River toward the Iraqi border. Ankara wants to control the zone and clear Kurdish militia, namely the Syrian Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), from the border area.

The Turkish president said that he would discuss the East of the Euphrates with U.S. President Donald Trump again and asked whether it was acceptable or the ‘’United States to provide training to the YPG.’’

Erdogan also said he expects to meet U.S. President Donald Trump at the United Nations later this month to discuss military operations in northeast Syria, where Turkey plans to resettle 1 million Syrian refugees.

"There is a migration problem at this time caused by Idlib. We have told Europe in clear terms that they must share this burden. We told them that if you don’t share it, we will open the gates,’’ Erdoğan said.

"It is not possible for us to accept that training is being provided to the YPG. Who will these [militants] fight with? With Turkey,’’ he added.

Ankara and Washington last month agreed to set up a safe zone to manage tensions between Turkey and U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria. However, the details of the plan, including the size of the "safe zone" and how it will be managed or divided, remain unclear.

Ankara agreed to curb the flow of migrants to Europe under a 2016 deal with Brussels, in return for billions of euros in aid.