Turkey to let refugees flee to Europe after troops killed
February 28, 2020 - Turkey has threatened to lift border controls to allow refugees to try to travel to Europe after an airstrike blamed on Damascus killed 33 Turkish soldiers in northwestern Syria.
It was the highest number of Turkish soldiers killed in a single day since Ankara first intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2016.
The development was the most serious escalation in the conflict between Turkish and Russia-backed Syrian forces and raised the prospect of all-out war with millions of Syrian civilians trapped in the middle.
NATO envoys held emergency talks at the request of Turkey, a NATO member, and scores of migrants began converging on Turkey’s border with Greece seeking entry into Europe after Turkey said it was “no longer able to hold refugees.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country already hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has long threatened to “open the gates” for millions of refugees eager to flee to Europe unless more international support was provided.
The latest crisis stems from a Russian-backed Syrian government military campaign to retake Syria’s Idlib province, which is the last opposition-held stronghold in Syria. The offensive, which began in December, has triggered the largest single wave of displacement in Syria’s nine-year war, sending nearly 950,000 people fleeing to areas near the Turkish border for safety. Ankara, the Syrian rebels’ last supporter, sealed its borders in 2015 and under a 2016 deal with the European Union agreed to step up efforts to halt the flow of refugees.
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