Turkey is not in Syria for an “adventure” or to expand its borders, the nation’s president said on Saturday.
“Syria issue is never an adventure or effort to expand its borders for Turkey,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a meeting with his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s Istanbul deputies.
He said nearly four million refugees are recently moving towards Turkey’s border with Syria due to the bloody attacks of Bashar al-Assad regime on civilians, while 1.5 million of them are already at the southern border.
“We have no interest in oil or the land there, we want to secure our borders with a safe zone,” Erdogan said.
Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under the September 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.
But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by Assad and Russian forces in the zone since then, as the cease-fire continues to be violated.
The attacks on Turkish troops in Idlib have surged in recent weeks as the regime and its allies continue flouting the cease-fire.
Late Thursday, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred and dozens of others injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces in Idlib, a de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria, just across Turkey’s southern border.
Turkey pledged that such assaults would not go unanswered.
The de-escalation zone is currently home to four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.
- Turkey cannot handle another refugee influx
With Turkey already hosting 3.7 million Syrians, Erdogan said it cannot handle another refugee influx.
He recalled that Turkey warned other countries months ago that it might have to open its border gates if the situation remains the same.
“They were disturbed. They did not believe in it. But what did we do yesterday? [We] opened the gates,” he said.
“As of this morning around 18,000 [migrants] forced their way out of the gates. But the number might reach 25,000-30,000 today. We will not close the doors in the coming process.”
Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country, making it the world’s top refugee hosting country.