For the last two years, Turkey has been conducting counterterrorism operations in northern Syria, where a power vaccum has emerged due to the civil war. The areas where the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) carried out operations with the Syrian National Army (SNA) were cleared of terrorist elements such as the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) and Daesh.
However, Operation Peace Spring, launched by the TSK against terrorist elements east of the Euphrates River, was met with negative reactions from European countries in particular. Furthermore, the EU and Turkey's NATO allies even threatened sanctions against Ankara's use of its right to self-defense stipulated by international agreements. Without hesitation, they support the YPG, the Syrian branch of the PKK, which is on the terror list of the U.S. and the EU, against Turkey.
This naturally provoked a reaction from Ankara, which was completely justified. Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Turkey has shouldered a significant part of the burden that has fallen on the international community.
In our country, which has a population of 80 million, there are 4 million Syrians who have fled the war. It is definitely not easy for Turkey to bear the financial burden of this mass of refugees at a time when the entire global economy is faced with hardships.
Turkey, which implements a humanitarian open-door policy along its 911-kilometer border with Syria, is firmly guarding the border crossings to Europe. The figures provided by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on the issue are striking:
“The number of refugees crossing into Europe has dropped from 9,000-9,500 to 130 a day. While the illegal immigrants we caught last year numbered 268,000, we will complete this year with over 400,000. Right now, the figure is around 365,000. In other words, we have achieved about a 40% rise, while the number of those crossing to Europe is over 10,000. That means only one in every 10 people coming to us gets to Europe.”
In addition to refugees, another issue that Turkey has had to tackle is the issue of foreign fighters who come to join terrorist organizations such as Daesh and the YPG.
Border police have so far arrested thousands of foreign fighters trying to cross into Syria via Turkey to join terrorist groups, and Turkey has launched proceedings for their extradition to their own countries. However, European countries, including the Netherlands and France, are depriving these arrested people of citizenship and trying to impose responsibility for them on Turkey.
It's a bit much!
Turkey, which protects NATO's most critical eastern border, is far better fulfilling its humanitarian responsibility for refugees as well as contributing to the global fight against terrorism.
Turkey serves as a barrier against the wave of mass migration toward Europe, paying all the economic, social and political costs generously and courteously.
Despite all this, Ankara has been accused of "invasion" in its operation launched to create a safe zone for refugees in northern Syria, a far cry from the appreciation and support it merits. Turkey has also been subjected to an arms embargo for striking the YPG, which is defined as a terrorist element in the country by the Damascus regime as well.
This double standard and injustice is so obvious and painful that Turkish citizens of all political views want President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to use his leverage to keep the European border open, just like the Syrian border.
European countries that choose the qualified Syrians by "looking at their teeth" should understand that Turkey, which has taken on the burden of refugees as well as foreign fighters, has reached full capacity, and they should act accordingly. They must calculate well that every day they delay will increase the price they will pay.