Turkish jets fly over Syria for a reason, says Erdoğan
The schedule for the upcoming safe zone between Turkey and the United States is on time as Turkish aircrafts hover over the region, corroborating the timespan, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
“Right now, the schedule is on time. As the schedule is proceeding, we have taken our precautions along the border. Besides these measures, we recently flew our aircrafts in the region. These flights are not for nothing. This is not a simple air navigation,” Erdoğan told daily Hürriyet, speaking before his departure from New York where he attended the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly.
“Turkey is not a country one can stall. It is my citizens who are under constant harassment,” he said.
The two NATO allies started joint land and air patrols along part of Syria’s border with Turkey. Ankara wants Washington to clear the YPG - the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK - from a 480-kilometer-long (300-mile-long) border area, and Erdoğan warned that Turkey would act unilaterally if the group was not removed.
U.S. support for the YPG has angered Turkey. PKK is listed as a terror organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Regarding Syrian refugees in Turkey, Erdoğan said Turkey has been hosting nearly 4 million refugees while the rest of the world “stood idle by.”
“The whole world, including the West, stands idly by these refugees. They all spectate. They tell us, ‘How do you accomplish this? How do you host 4 million refugees?’ But these statements do not help us,” he said, once again accusing the international community and the Western countries of not fulfilling their commitments regarding the care of Syrian refugees.
Under a 2016 deal, the E.U. pledged to provide 6 billion euros of financial aid for the care of Syrian refugees in Turkey. The president said Turkey only received 3 billion of the agreed amount while the country has spent over $40 billion for Syrian refugees.
“They said, ‘We will give [the aid] in two installments, 3 billion euros each. There is still 3 billion euros left. We have been constantly saying that we spent over $40 billion on expenditures [related to the care of Syrian refugees]. These steps are needed to be taken now,” he said.
When asked if a new flock of migrants are expected from Idlib, Erdoğan said there is calmness in the province, but one should err on the side of caution.
“Right now, there is calmness seen in Idlib, but one should not let his guard down. Because it is a place with a 4 million population. It is not easy. If we had slacked, some influx of migrants would have started towards the borders. As of now, they started to pitch their tents in there,” Erdoğan said.
The president also conveyed that Turkey has been providing food aid to the region via Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) and Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay).
“We have to put these people under some king of protection. Our initiatives are ongoing,” he said.
There were some harassment towards Turkey’s observation points, Erdoğan said, yet as Turkish officials discussed the situation with their Russian counterparts, “the situation has been taken [care of] to a certain extent.”
“There is no problem right now because our teams at the observation points are vigilant. I wish these meetings with Russia will yield results,” he said.
The Syrian regime on the course of the summer launched several harassment fires to Turkish military observation posts in northwestern Syria.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib would remain in areas where they were already present, while Russia and Turkey would carry out joint patrols in the area to prevent a resumption of fighting.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.