Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that a planned “safe zone” in northern Syria could host 2-3 million Syrian refugees that have settled in Turkey and Europe after eight years of war at home.
Addressing academics in Ankara, Erdogan also repeated that Ankara would act on its own if the zone, planned jointly with the United States in Syria’s northeast, bears no results.
“We want to see strong support from European countries, both on the issues of Idlib and the region east of Euphrates. We are full for words, and we expect action,” Erdogan added.
Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Its troops are also stationed in Syria’s northwest Idlib region, where a Russian-backed government offensive has pushed north in recent months, raising the prospect of a new wave of refugees.
“If we cannot establish peace in Idlib swiftly, we will be unable to shoulder the burden of 4 million Syrians living in that region,” Erdogan added.
Erdogan’s remarks came as Turkey and the U.S. are in a process of accomplishing the technicalities about a safe zone, they agreed to on Aug. 7 to set up in the north-eastern Syria. They have established a joint coordination centre in Akçakale district of the border province of Şanlıurfa and carried out a ground patrolling mission as well as five reconnaissance flights in the region. However, there is still no clarity on the depth of the zone and by whom it will be controlled. Turkey presses on the U.S. that the enclave should be 30 kilometres deep in Syria.