Turkey ‘most affected’ if Idlib crisis worsens: FM Çavuşoğlu
Çavuşoğlu was speaking at a high-level meeting on the Syrian crisis at UN headquarters in New York.
"Just look at Idlib. A catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes," said Çavuşoğlu. "Turkey will be the most affected country if the humanitarian crisis worsens."
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.
The area is currently inhabited by about 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands of people displaced in recent years by regime forces from cities and towns throughout the war-weary country.
Turkey warned that further aggression by the Syrian regime and allies might trigger an influx of millions of refugees to Turkey, which currently hosts over 3.6 million displaced Syrians, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.
"The population of Idlib is almost the same as the number of Syrians in Turkey. We cannot handle a new wave," said Çavuşoğlu and added that an international conference with Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq to discuss the return of Syrians is being planned to be held in Turkey.
"We hope that the EU will be a part of it. We will invite UNHCR and other relevant countries and international actors," he said in reference to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Çavuşoğlu also asked Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to allocate land for building camps for Rohingya refugees.
The minister said the Rohingya crisis is one of the gravest tragedies in the world and Turkey highly commends the role assumed by Bangladesh in tackling the huge number of Rohingya refugees.
"We request Bangladesh to allocate land as we did for Syrian refugees in Turkey, which are the best camps in the world," said Çavuşoğlu.
More than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
The Rohingya are described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people. The Muslim minority has faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
"We believe that the international community also should do more to share the burden of Bangladesh in decreasing the problem of Rohingya refugee camps," said Çavuşoğlu.
The minister also said that since the outset of the crisis, Turkey has prioritized the issue in international agenda and helped the refugees with humanitarian aid both in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
He also said Turkey expects Myanmar to take necessary steps for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Rohingya.