Turkey cannot handle new wave of migrants from Syria, says Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said that Turkey cannot handle and new wave of migrants from northern Syria and called for the establishment of the safe zone in the region as soon as possible. 

“We are hosting almost 5 million foreigners, 3.6 million of which are Syrian … It is not possible for our country to handle another wave of migration from Syria,” independent news site T24 quoted the president as saying after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in Ankara.

Erdoğan said the creation of the safe zone in northeast Syria was an urgent matter, which would “ease the war on terror and help overcome irregular migration”. 

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 Islamic State. 

The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also spoke on the safe zone on Tuesday, accusing Washington of taking only “cosmetic steps” toward the creation of a said zone in northeast Syria and renewing Ankara’s threat of unilateral military intervention to form a buffer area along its border.

“We are speaking about an ally who cannot act independently from the terror organisation,” Çavusoğlu said, referring to Washington. “While on one side, it is taking cosmetic steps with us, on the other side, it is strengthening its engagement with” Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The two sides have been unable to agree on the terms of the zone, but on Sunday, Turkish and U.S. troops carried out their first joint military patrol in the region.

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. 

Erdoğan said that up to 50,000 trucks filled with ammunition had been sent to terrorist organisations in Syria, which he said greatly disturbed Turkey.

“These vehicles are being used against Turkey,” Erdoğan said.