Turkey's Erdogan threatens to 'open the gates,' allow Syrian refugees to leave for Western countries


The president of Turkey said Thursday he would be forced to “open the gates” and allow a route for Syrian refugees to travel into Western Europe unless a deal is reached with the U.S. by the end of the month to help resettle migrants in a so-called “safe zone” within Syria, according to reports.

SYRIAN CIVIL WAR HAS DAMAGED MORE THAN 120 CHURCHES, REPORT FINDS

In a speech to his ruling party officials, President Tayyip Erdogan said he was determined to create a “safe zone” in northeast Syria in partnership with the United States by the end of September, but was prepared to act alone if necessary.

“We will be forced to open the gates,” Erdogan said. “We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone.”

Erdogan said Turkey aims to resettle about 1 million out of the 3.65 million Syrian refugees in the safe zone. He added that his nation “did not receive the support needed from the world” to help it cope with Syrian refugees.

The war in Syria is an ongoing armed conflict between President Bashar al-Assad's government and multiple opposing factions, including the Islamic State, according to Statista, a German online portal for statistics.

More than half of the Syrian population have fled the country as a result of the conflict, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported. About 6.6 million refugees left Syria since 2011 — about half of which settled in Turkey, which borders Syria from the north.

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About 207,000 civilians have died in the conflict since it first began about eight years ago, Statista reported. European nations and the United States have largely remained separated from the conflict until the U.S. and Allied forces conducted airstirkes in 2014 against Islamic extremists. Russia began to back the Syrian government in 2015, according to the site.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.