Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the EU on Thursday that Ankara would allow millions of refugees to head to Europe if the bloc criticizes Turkey’s military offensive in Syria.
“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.
Erdogan claimed 109 “terrorists” had been killed so far in the offensive, with Syrian media saying at least 5 civilians were martyred and other nine were injured.
“We have a message to those who were forced to join the YPG (Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units) ranks: If you leave now… our arms are wide open,” he said.
Turkey currently hosts 3.6 million refugees from the eight-year conflict in Syria — the highest number in the world.
Under a 2016 agreement with the EU, Turkey agreed to prevent refugees from leaving towards Europe in exchange for six billion euros and visa-free travel for its own citizens.
But it has frequently criticized Brussels for being slow in providing the money and not doing more to help with the broader refugee problem.
“You have never been sincere,” Erdogan said, addressing the EU.
“Now they say they will withhold three billion euros from us. Have you ever kept any promise you gave us so far? No.”