Turkey cannot handle a new wave of migrants from northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday, adding that Ankara and Washington need to establish a “safe zone” in the region as soon as possible.
The NATO allies have agreed to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria along Turkey’s southern border and to clear the area of Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters. On Sunday Turkish and US troops carried out their first joint land patrol in the region.
Erdoğan has said Turkey aims to send 1 million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it hosts to the planned safe zone in northern Syria and warned that Ankara would “open the gates” to Europe unless it received international support.
Speaking at a lunch with US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Tuesday, Erdoğan said it was not possible for Turkey to handle a new wave of migrants from Syria.
“Our expectation from the United States is to stand with us in our fight against terror and our efforts to establish safe zones where the refugees can return to,” Erdoğan said, adding Ankara “greatly valued” its cooperation with Washington in Syria.
“Sending 50,000 trucks of equipment and ammunition to the terrorists so far has really bothered us. Against who are these [weapons] used? Against Turkey. It is not possible for us to accept this as a strategic partner,” he said.
Turkey and the United States have been at loggerheads over a host of issues in recent months, including Ankara’s purchase of a Russian defense system that could spark US sanctions.
Turkey has so far relied heavily on Erdoğan’s personal ties with US President Donald Trump to resolve issues. Erdoğan and Trump are due to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month to discuss developments in Syria, trade and other bilateral issues.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday that Washington is stalling in its agreement to create a “safe zone” in northeast Syria and repeated that Ankara was ready to act on its own if necessary to push back Kurdish fighters.