ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Up to 40,000 refugees have settled in camps on the Turkish border inside Syria in the latest wave of migration, a Turkish deputy prime minister said on Friday, as attacks by Russian-backed Syrian government forces send tens of thousands fleeing.
A diplomatic initiative with Russia and Syria is needed to prevent further waves of migration that would also impact Europe, Yalcin Akdogan told reporters near the border at Oncupinar, in comments broadcast live by TRT television.
“In the last week there has been a new wave of migration, notably because of the Russian bombardment and 35,000 to 40,000 people have flowed to the Turkish border,” he said.
Earlier on Friday the United States, Russia and more than a dozen other nations reached agreement in Munich to cease hostilities in Syria and provide humanitarian aid. The deal is aimed at eventually paving the way for a political transition in Turkey’s war-ravaged neighbor.
Turkey, which already hosts 2.6 million Syrian refugees, has tried to keep the latest wave on the Syrian side of the border, in part to pressure Russia to cease its air support for Syrian government forces near the city of Aleppo.
NATO member Turkey is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most vehement critics and an ardent supporter of opposition forces. Ankara’s relations with Moscow have been very strained since the Turkish air force downed a Russian jet along the Turkish border in November.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu welcomed the Syrian ceasefire deal in a post on his Twitter account, saying it was an “important step” toward resolving the crisis.
However, unless Russia ends its strikes on Western-backed Syrian opposition forces, the ceasefire reached in Munich will not hold and humanitarian access will not be effectively secured, Cavusoglu told TRT in comments broadcast from Munich.
He said Turkey and its partners did not object to Russia targeting militant groups such as Islamic State and the Nusra Front, but said Moscow should do so in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition.
The latest wave of refugees has swelled to 100,000 the number of people sheltering at nine camps located on the Syrian side of the border within 3 km of Turkey, Cavusoglu said, adding that a 10th camp was being prepared.
Akdogan said it was important to create a “civilian settlement area” on the Syrian side of the border but insisted Turkey was maintaining its “open-door policy” toward refugees.
Reporting by Daren Butler; Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by David Dolan and Gareth Jones