UK blames Syrian regime for refugee wave in Turkey

Foreign Minister says he had ‘frank discussions’ over human rights with his Turkish counterpart

Britain’s Foreign Minister said the Syrian regime bears responsibility for the failure to find a political solution in Syria amid a renewed offensive on the rebel-held province of Idlib.

Speaking alongside his Turkish counterpart, Dominic Raab blamed the government of Bashar Al Assad for the new wave of refugees and migrants arriving at Turkey’s western border with Greece. Nearly one million people are believed to have been displaced as fighting rages in north-west Syria.

Last week Turkey has opened its borders with Europe with its leadership accusing the European Union of failing to uphold a 2016 deal to stop migration from its western frontier in return for money.

The move followed the killing of at least 33 Turkish soldiers by Syrian Army forces, who receive aerial support from Russia. Turkey, who is backing the rebels in Idlib, and its proxies have hit back, leaving hundreds of thousands of civilians bearing the brunt.

Turkey has asked its Nato allies including the UK for military support. Turkish and Russian leaders are expected to meet for a high stakes summit on Thursday on the Syria crisis.

Mr Raab said he was in Turkey to express “British solidarity”. But he also said they held “frank discussions” on human rights and rule of law.

“We support Turkey’s efforts to re-establish the ceasefire agreed in 2018 and to protect those innocent civilians fleeing the regime’s monstrous assault,” Mr Raab said in Ankara.

“We are gravely concerned by the significant escalation in military action by Russia and the Syrian regime in the North West.

“We have condemned these actions as flagrant violations of international law and indeed basic human decency,” he added.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has opened the gates to Europe in what has been seen as a threat to get more support from his Nato partners. The move has led to a particularly vicious war of words between Turkey and Greece, with the latter fearing a situation similar to 2015 when millions of migrants and refugees streamed into Europe.

“We urgently need to discuss the recent issues at Turkey’s Western border, where we have seen a marked increase in migrants seeking transit into Europe,” Mr Raab said.

“It is imperative that we work together with the international community on Idlib and in any response to a new wave of refugees and the movements of migrants, especially at Turkey’s Western border.

“Once again, the root cause of this is the reckless and brutal nature of the Syrian regime and the Russian offensive in Idlib,” he added.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Mr Erdogan over the phone on Tuesday, expressing his condolences for the killings of the Turkish soldiers in Idlib.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: “President Erdogan thanked the Prime Minister for the support the UK has shown Turkey at NATO and at the UN Security Council.

“The leaders discussed the situation in Syria and the Prime Minister acknowledged the heavy burden that Turkey continues to shoulder in supporting Syrian refugees. He highlighted the UK’s announcement today of additional humanitarian aid for those affected by the ongoing conflict in Idlib.

“They agreed on the importance of the bilateral relationship between our countries and resolved to stay in touch.”