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Turkish Ambassador to Ireland: There's no 'threat' to send 3.6 million refugees to EU

The Turkish President yesterday said the country could do just that if the EU doesn’t support the country.

Turkish Ambassador to Ireland Levent Murat Burhan.
Turkish Ambassador to Ireland Levent Murat Burhan.
Image: TheJournal.ie

Updated Fri 10:22 PM

TURKEY’S AMBASSADOR TO Ireland has said his president’s claim that the country could “open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants” to the EU should not be viewed as a threat.

Levent Murat Burhan briefed journalists in Dublin today about his country’s military incursion into northern Syrian, claiming that Turkey “has no hidden intentions” and merely wants to “wipe out” terrorists in the region.

“How long this operation will go on? We intend to continue this operation until all the terrorist elements are wiped out of the region and our border security has been ensured,” he said.

The ambassador repeatedly referred to the 3.6 million refugees from Syria that have crossed into Turkey since the beginning of the civil war in 2011, noting that 300,000 of these are Syrian Kurds.

The ethnic minority Kurdish people live in the Kurdistan region which straddles Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Armenia.

Kurdish militia the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fought the so-called Islamic State in Syria but Turkey considers them to be terrorists. Burhan said today that it makes no sense to “ally with terrorists to fight other terrorists”.

The ambassador said that Turkey is acting with “utmost caution” to avoid civilian casualties. He said the Turkish military is “not targeting populated areas” and is urging people to stay indoors.

Despite these assurances, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said this afternoon that total of 17 civilians have been killed since the start of the assault, with 41 fighters from the Kurdish forces dead.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has condemned Turkey’s use of force against Kurdish fighters who helped defeat the so-called Islamic State.

Officials from Coveney’s Department met with Burhan this afternoon where they “reiterated Ireland’s deep concern at the unilateral military action by Turkey”. 

“They underlined that safety of all civilians, especially displaced and vulnerable communities, must be paramount and that any refugee returns to Syria must fully abide by humanitarian principles and be voluntary, dignified and safe,” Coveney said in a statement. 

The Tánaiste added that he will be discussing the issue with other EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.

‘Huge burden’

Turkey announced today that one of its soldiers had been killed in the fighting.

Burhan claimed that Turkey’s intention is to create a “safe zone” in northern Syria that is free from the threat posed by terrorists.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been an opponent of Kurdish nationalism and his country has been planning military action against Kurdish forces in northern Syria fo some time.

There have been claims that Turkey intends to move Syrian refugees in to the border region between the two nations to dilute Kurdish influence in the region. Burhan denied this was not the case.

“We have no plans to modify the demographic structure in the area and so on, this is not true. We hope that when this operation ends this area will be clear, it will give a chance to one million displaced Syrians including Kurds, Arabs and Christians alike to return to their original land,” he said.

These people, they took refuge in Turkey and they have been the subject of oppression and violence of YPG. Therefore, when a safe area is established then these people, on a voluntary basis, will be able to return to their original land.

The ambassador repeatedly referred to the “huge burden” being placed on the Turkish state by the influx of Syrian refugees and said his country has been let down by the international community.

He referred specifically to the European Union who he said had not followed through on promises of aid.

Yesterday, Erdogan warned the EU that it would have to deal with these refugees if the ‘safe zone’ was not created.

turkey-army-northern-syria-attack Smoke above the northern Syrian city of Ras al-Ain, as seen from across the Turkish border. Source: PA Images

“Hey EU, wake up. I say it again: if you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple: we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you,” Erdogan said in a speech to parliament.

Asked whether his president’s comments should be interpreted by the EU as a threat, Burhan said this was not the case.

We tried to get our European friends to understand us, that this is really a huge problem. Whatever help that the EU is providing is coming very slowly and it’s not only the EU but the international community.

“I would say it’s trying to address the European community that we are under a really difficult situation, a huge burden we are under. so our European friends should show more understanding vis-a-vis this issue.”

“I cannot comment on the president’s words but this was my feeling as I understood it,” he added.

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Rónán Duffy

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