Turkey urges more support from Europe to assist displaced Syrians
Updated 16:38, 25-Jan-2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged European countries on Friday to take on their share of providing support for displaced Syrians.

"It is a humanitarian responsibility of the European Union and the European countries to provide more and faster assistance to Syrians," Erdogan said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Istanbul.

He said close to 400,000 people in Syria's northwestern Idlib province were moving toward Turkish border as a result of renewed attacks by the Syrian government.

Turkish aid groups have begun building more than 10,000 houses in Idlib to shelter the growing number of people displaced by the fighting, while Turkey seeks to prevent a new influx of migrants across its border.

"The Turkish Red Crescent and the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority have started their work to build shelters to protect these people from harsh winter conditions," Erdogan said.

Meanwhile, Merkel said Germany is ready to provide financial aid to improve the humanitarian situation of Syrian refugees who were forced to spend the winter in tents near the Turkish border.

"We will also try to help by constructing sound and concrete shelters for them," she said.

An internally displaced woman sits outside a tent in Idlib province, Syria July 30, 2018. /Reuters Photo

An internally displaced woman sits outside a tent in Idlib province, Syria July 30, 2018. /Reuters Photo

Turkey is hosting over 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil, costing more than 40 billion U.S. dollars until now.

Ankara agreed to help curb the flow of illegal immigrants to Europe under a deal signed with the EU in March 2016, in return for a total of six billion euros (6.62 billion dollars) in financial aid for the refugees.

The issue has been causing strains in ties between the bloc and Turkey, as Ankara has been urging the European countries to increase the funding.

"The EU had promised six billion euros of support, but not even three billion euros were given to international NGOs," Erdogan noted.

Turkish military sent to Libya to train pro-Serraj forces

Turkey has sent a training and cooperation team to Libya as part of a military cooperation agreement signed in November with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj, Erdogan said.

"We sent, are sending our military delegation to there... We will not leave Serraj alone. We are determined to provide all the help we can on this point," Erdogan said.

Last week, Germany hosted a summit on Libya involving the rival camps, their main foreign backers and representatives which agreed that a permanent ceasefire has to be achieved in Tripoli to allow a political process to take place.

Speaking in Istanbul after talks with Merkel, Erdogan also said countries which attended the Libya summit in Berlin on Sunday should not favor Serraj's opponent, Khalifa Haftar, after he left the meeting without signing a ceasefire deal.

Haftar's Libya National Army (LNA) faction is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which have for years provided training and weapons, according to UN reports.

(With input from Reuters, Xinhua)