Turkish authorities say EU should pay for Syrian safe zone

Officials from Turkish intelligence, humanitarian and religious organisations discussed asking the European Union and international organisations to stump up the cash for a planned safe zone in Syria during a meeting on Thursday, secular opposition daily Cumhuriyet reported.

Officials from the Turkish presidency, National Intelligence Agency (MİT), the disaster and emergency body AFAD, the humanitarian agency Turkish Red Crescent and the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) held the meeting at the presidential palace, Cumhuriyet said.

"At the meeting, it was stated that the costs of work to be carried for the establishment of the safe zone in northern Syria should be undertaken by the European Union and other international organisations," the daily said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week warned that with more asylum seekers expected to join Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrians soon, he could be forced to “open the gates” and let more migrants through to Europe. He also revealed a plan to resettle 1 million Syrians by building new cities in the safe zone.

The United States and Turkey last month agreed to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria to address Ankara’s security concerns about the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have been key to the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State. 

Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for more than 30 years, and has repeatedly threatened to invade the area if the United States is unable to agree to its terms on the safe zone. 

Ankara and Washington last month agreed to form a joint operations centre in Turkey’s southeastern Şanlıurfa province to work on the planned safe zone. A U.S. delegation met on Wednesday with Turkish officials in Şanlıurfa.