Turkey unable to bear brunt of new wave of migrants – Turkish vice president

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces are causing “civilian catastrophes” in the operation to seize Idlib, the last rebel-held province in the country, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Friday.

Turkey is already coping with more than 3.5 million migrants and will not be able to host more if the Syrian offensive unleashes a new wave of refugees, Oktay said.

"Unfortunately, the recent attacks of the Syrian regime make too much civilian catastrophies," Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Oktay as saying.

Assad’s government began bombarding Idlib in April, marking the start of the breakdown of a de-escalation deal Turkey signed with Russia in September 2018.

The Syrian government and its Russian allies stepped up the offensive over the summer. Last month, as Assad’s forces advances, thousands of Syrians staged protests in the province demanding to be let across the border to Turkey.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned on Thursday that he could “open the gates” of migration to Europe, since Turkey was not receiving adequate support for its large population of refugees.

Oktay said European countries should be aware that Turkey is unable to accommodate a new wave of migration that could be triggered by Assad’s capture of Idlib.

“Europe has to understand this, the message is very clear: Turkey is not and will not be able to host any more refugees coming from the Idlib side. Europe has to face that risk," Oktay said.