Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that up to 250,000 migrants were fleeing from the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib towards Turkey, adding that Ankara was trying to prevent them from crossing its border, Reuters informed.
Turkey hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population in the world. It fears a new wave from Idlib, where up to 3 million Syrians live in the last rebel-held swathe of territory, after Russian and Syrian government forces last month intensified their bombardment of targets in the region.
“Right now, 200,000 to 250,000 migrants are moving towards our borders. We are trying to prevent them with some measures, but it’s not easy. It’s difficult, they are humans too,” Erdogan told a conference in Ankara.
Last week, Erdogan also held a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Syria and Libya. According to the statement issued by Turkey’s Directorate of Communications, the two leaders also addressed the bilateral relations and regional developments, Hurriyet reported.
The phone talk came after Ankara and Libya’s U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) signed on November 27 two separate pacts, one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Separately, Turkey on October 9 last year launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants to clear east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria of the terrorist group PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD/YPG.
The U.S.-backed SDF, a group dominated by the YPG, has been controlling some 28 percent of the Syrian territories, including most of the 911-kilometer-long Syria-Turkey border.
Turkey deems the YPG the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization also by the United States and the EU.