Jun 11 2018

Over 2 million displaced Syrians pushed towards Turkey – U.N.

Up to 2.5 million displaced Syrians in the northwest Syrian province of Idlib could be forces towards the Turkish border with nowhere to go, the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator, Panos Moumtzis, has warned.

Idlib is the largest remaining rebel-controlled region in the country after seven years of conflict, and has been the destination for fighters as well as civilians forced out of areas captured by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

As a result, the population of Idlib has swelled, and as the conflict goes on 2-2.5 million people are in danger of being “displaced more and more toward the border of Turkey” if military operations in the area continue, said Moumtzis.

A major factor forcing the Syrians northward is the continuation of airstrikes, likely carried out by the Assad regime’s ally, Russia, which have killed dozens over the last week.

The area was designated a “de-escalation zone” by Turkey, Iran and Russia at the Astana talks, peace talks arranged by Russia as an alternative to the U.N.-sponsored Geneva talks.

However, the ongoing airstrikes have raised questions about the sense of “de-escalation” and the role of Turkish troops, who are stationed at observation posts in the region but have not prevented attacks against the opposition.

A major battle in Idlib would by “much more complicated and brutal” than recent fighting in other parts of the country such as Eastern Ghouta, making a military solution the least desirable if not impossible, said Moumtzis.

Turkey closed its border to Syrian refugees in 2015 after maintaining an open border policy for several years and taking in over 3 million, and has constructed a 475-mile wall along the border to guard against illegal entry.

Observers from a human rights organisation have reported hundreds of Syrians killed at the border by Turkish guards, and a large influx of refugees would likely lead to further casualties.