BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:15 P.M.) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to “get out of our way” in Syria, so that his forces can attack the Syrian military.
“I asked Mr. Putin: ‘what is your business there? If you establish a base, do so but get out of our way and leave us face to face with the regime,” Erdogan said, speaking to reporters in Istanbul, his comments cited by AFP.
Erdogan also warned that the “Syrian regime” would “pay the price” for the deaths of Turkish troops in Idlib, and said that if Russia left Damascus one-on-one with Turkey, “we will do what is necessary.”
Erdogan confirmed that Turkey had opened its borders with the European Union for Syrian refugees, and that some 18,000 migrants had already crossed the border into the EU. According to the Turkish president, Ankara could not “handle a new refugee wave” from Syria. Earlier, Turkish officials told media that Ankara had opened its borders with the European bloc amid the escalating conflict in Idlib.
“We have been saying for a long time that we are not obligated to accept such a number of refugees. You promised us assistance, but are doing nothing, so we opened our borders yesterday. 18,000 refugees have already passed through, and today this number will be 25,000-30,000, and we will not close our doors because the EU must keep its word,” Erdogan said, presumably referring to the March 2016 Turkey-EU migrant deal.
Putin and Erdogan spoke by telephone amid tensions in Idlib, the restive Syrian province where tens of thousands of militants remain concentrated, and where dozens of Syrian and Turkish troops have now been killed amid weeks of clashes.