The activities of the Syrian regime and its supportive Russian units in Idlib province have created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the Syrian civil war, and if the international community fails to respond, the situation could get worse, member of European Parliament Sven Mikser (SDE) has said.
"What the Syrian regime's troops and their Russian supporters are doing has triggered an exceptionally serious, perhaps even the most serious humanitarian crisis in the long history of the Syrian civil war. What is happening in the province of Idilib is undoubtedly an extraordinarily large-scale humanitarian tragedy, in addition to the military conflict. So there is no doubt that the international community, including the European Union and NATO member states, also need to respond to prevent further escalation of this disaster," Mikser, a former foreign minister, told ERR on Friday.
"It is clear that if the international community fails to provide a solution to put this conflict back on the path of political negotiation or to alleviate the humanitarian situation of Syrian refugees on their way to Turkey, the situation could be worse in the short term," Mikser added.
He said nearly a million people had fled their homes and their movement near the Turkish border in the wake of the military escalation in northern Syria in recent weeks has forced the Turkish authorities to find different solutions, including a large number of member states of the European Union.
Mikser also mentioned the threat leaked by an anonymous source to Reuters news agency and reported on Friday morning that Turkey could stop obstructing the movement of refugees to the European Union, which has prevented hundreds of thousands of people from entering the EU in recent years.
"On one hand, there is certainly political pressure behind this threat to gain more support from the allies in the operation in northern Syria. Another issue is that Turkey already provides shelter to three and a half million refugees who have mainly left Syria, and there is now the possibility of adding another million to that number and this is of considerable concern to the Turkish authorities. The potential for Turkey to open its border to Europe is something that worries Europe," said Mikser.
On Friday evening, the North Atlantic Council (NAC), which includes NATO ambassadors, will convene in Brussels to discuss the situation.
"After last night's events, which was followed by a meeting of senior Turkish security officials, only a little time has passed so that a united position of the European Union could be reached. Certainly, the NATO Council will get a more accurate picture of what is happening, and what is the alliance's ability to respond," he said.
At least 33 Turkish soldiers have died in a Syrian government attack in opposition-held north-western Syria, in a major escalation of the conflict, the BBC reported on Friday. Turkey is a NATO member.
President Erdogan wants Syrian government forces to pull back from positions where Turkey has set up military observation posts and earlier threatened to attack them if they did not halt their advance.
But Syria's government and Russia have rejected his demand to pull back to ceasefire lines agreed in 2018. Russia has also accused Turkey of violating the 2018 ceasefire by backing rebels with artillery fire.
The EU has warned the crisis could descend into a serious conflict.
Editor: Helen Wright