Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that over 18,000 irregular migrants have so far crossed the Greek border after Turkey decided to open its border gates for the refugees.
“The figure could go up to 25,000-30,000 today,” Erdogan said at a meeting in Istanbul.
Turkey on Thursday announced that it would no longer stop refugees from going to Europe after a deadly airstrike against the Turkish troops in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, the last rebel-held stronghold.
The death toll in the airstrike against the Turkish soldiers has increased to 36 from 33, Erdogan revealed.
“We will keep the doors open for the refugees in the future process,” Erdogan noted, urging the European Union to keep its promise about the financial aid to Turkey.
Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently agreed on an additional fund worth 25 million euros (27.6 million U.S. dollars), but Turkey has not yet received the amount of the fund, according to the Turkish leader.
Around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, fleeing from the bombardments of Syrian forces in Idlib, have recently flooded toward Turkey’s border with Syria. Turkey is hosting over 3.7 million Syrian refugees in its territory.
“We went there (Syria) not as a guest of (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad but as a guest of the Syrian people,” Erdogan said, noting Turkey has no intention to leave the area unless the Syrian people said “it is over.”
Turkey has no intention in “oil or territory” in Syria but wants to secure its border with a safe zone, the Turkish president added.
Erdogan noted that he told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to get out of the way and “leave Turkish forces alone to fight with the Syrian government.”
“But he couldn’t say they have withdrawn,” Erdogan said.