President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday Ankara would send the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to Europe if European countries label the country’s military incursion in Syria as an occupation, Reuters reported.
“We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way,” Erdoğan said in a speech to lawmakers from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday called on Turkey to show restraint and stop its military operation in northeast Syria.
“Turkey has security concerns at its border with Syria that we must understand. However, I call on Turkey, as well as other actors, to act with restraint,” Juncker told the European Parliament.
Following a green light from US President Donald Trump, Turkey has launched a military operation in northeast Syria to establish a safe zone where some of the Syrian refugees would be relocated.
The area has been controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a US ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorist group.
“Turkey has been planning to attack the Kurds for a long time. They have been fighting forever. We have no soldiers or Military anywhere near the attack area. I am trying to end the ENDLESS WARS. Talking to both sides. Some want us to send tens of thousands of soldiers to the area and start a new war all over again,” President Trump tweeted on Thursday.
“Turkey is a member of NATO. Others say STAY OUT, let the Kurds fight their own battles (even with our financial help). I say hit Turkey very hard financially & with sanctions if they don’t play by the rules! I am watching closely.”
President Erdoğan on Thursday told his party members that Trump’s tweets should be considered messages to the American bureaucracy and media instead of serious threats directed at Turkey.