Syria's Idlib faces devastation like Aleppo: Erdoğan
“Idlib is slowly fading away just how Aleppo did. Of course, it is not possible to stay silent when facing such a situation. We have been conducting our meetings with Russia. Likewise, we have a [trilateral summit] between Turkey, Russia and Iran ahead of us. We will see what we can do, but our aim is to take some steps before Geneva,” Erdoğan said.
His remarks came at a press conference following a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis at the presidential complex in the capital Ankara.
“Idlib is of our concern because migration from there will push our borders. We are the ones that are close to Syria with a 910-kilometer border. Any fire there will burn us, not any other country. Thus, we will do everything in our power,” he said.
Aleppo, the country’s most populous city before the war, saw a scorched-earth campaign by the Russian-backed Syrian regime, becoming a battleground between rebel insurgents and Damascus fighting for the control of the city. The city eventually fell to the control of Bashar al-Assad’s government in 2016.
In three weeks, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session, Turkey will use the last possibility to find a compromise with the U.S. on building a safe zone along the eastern line of the Euphrates River, he said.
Erdoğan also addressed the possible migration flock to the Turkish-Syrian border, saying Turkey is not expelling refugees.
“Turkey is not expelling refugees by closing its doors, but we will be happy if we can help with the establishment of a safe zone [in Syria],” he said.
On the migration issue, Erdoğan once again underlined that the European Union failed to keep its commitments regarding financial assistance for Syrian refugees. Under a 2016 deal, the EU agreed to provide Turkey a financial aid package of 6 billion euros, but the latter received about half of the promised amount.
“There were a lot of promises the European Union made to us. These promises were not about financial aid towards our national budget. These were promises from tents and container cities to schools and health services,” Erdoğan said.
Turkey has spent about $40 billion for the care of Syrian refugees, up until this point, the president conveyed.
“But unfortunately, the EU failed to reach even 3 billion euros. They are still stalling by saying ‘we did it and we are still doing it.’ No matter what, we have provided support for these 4 million people, as much as we can, and we will continue to do so,” he added.
Babis, for his part, hailed Erdogan’s proposal on the Syria safe zone, saying: “Turkey doesn’t want money but a safe zone with schools, houses and investment inside it.”
Also addressing the bilateral trade relations with Turkey, Babis said the trade volume between the two countries could be increased.
The Czech premier underlined the “great cooperation potential” between the two countries, especially in areas such as energy and the defense industry.
“We would like to see Turkish companies in our country,” Babis said, mentioning the opportunities in the construction area.