Assad regime attacks catastrophic for civilians: Turkish VP
Recent attacks by the Syrian regime have been catastrophic, Turkey's vice president said on Friday.
"Unfortunately, the recent attacks of the Syrian regime make too much civilian catastrophies," Fuat Oktay told Bloomberg in an exclusive interview.
According to the UN, more than 1,000 civilians were killed in and around the Idlib demilitarized zone in northwestern Syria over the last four months.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The Syrian regime, however, has consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.
Asked about the European stance on this issue, Oktay said: "I am not sure whether there is a European stance."
He added that when it comes to migrants, Europe is too enmeshed in its own issues.
'Europe has to understand'
Stressing the impact of the situation on Turkey, Oktay said: "So as Turkey we do have already 3.7 Syrian refugees, and now we are facing the risk of having another million if the Idlib issue goes out."
He added: "Europe has to understand this, the message is very clear: Turkey is not and will not be able to host any more refugees coming from the Idlib side. Europe has to face that risk."
On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned that Turkey could "open its doors" to let the Syrian refugees to cross into Europe if Ankara does not get expected support to help the refugees.
"Rather than spreading them [Syrians] to the other countries, the best way is somehow to get them to somewhere in Syria," said Oktay.
Turkey has championed the idea of a safe zone in Syria -- and is working to form one, with possible U.S. help -- and has worked to free areas of Syria near Turkey's border from terrorist groups.
On the terrorism issue, Okay said Turkey makes no distinction among terrorists based on geography, religion, or ethnicity.
"Terror is terror and terrorist is terrorist," he said.
Turkey is located in a sensitive region and has the right to defend itself, he said.
"U.S. is our strategic partner and that is how we see them, like Russia with the U.S. there are also issues," he said.
Oktay said Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump have very good relations and strong ties and are hoping to increase trade to $100 billion a year.
Communications channels between the two countries are open on the presidential level but there are problems at the lower levels, he added.