He said: “What gives him the right to invade Syria? By what right is he sending his tanks and planes into a territory over which he has no right? Turkey did not come under attack; Turkey was not in danger. What we are witnessing is purely and simply the annexation of a part of Syria.” M Lagarde’s comments echoed those made by far-right lawmaker Thierry Mariani on Monday, who accused Mr Erdogan of holding Europe to ransom. He told Europe 1: “We’ve been taken hostage by Erdogan for years.” M Mariani added that the “balance of power” was in Turkey’s favour.
The Turkish leader is “someone who’s been blackmailing Europe for years,” M Mariani said, referring to Mr Erdogan’s threat to send the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to Europe if EU countries label the country’s military incursion in Syria as an occupation.
“Hey EU, wake up… If you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple: we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you,” Mr Erdogan said in a speech to lawmakers.
Turkey launched the widely condemned military operation last Wednesday, just days after Mr Erdogan told US President Donald Trump that he planned to move ahead with a long-planned move against America’s Kurdish allies in the region.
Mr Trump swiftly announced the redeployment of US troops from the conflict zone to get them out of harm’s way, dismissing criticism this would leave the Kurds open to attack. This was widely perceived as giving Turkey a green light for the operation.
The Turkish government has said the offensive, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” aims to eliminate threats from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by Kurdish YPG militia – which it views as a terrorist organisation – and Islamic State (Isis) militants, and enable the return of Syrian refugees in Turkey after the creation of a “safe zone” in the area.
Mr Erdogan said on Twitter: “Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area.
“We will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists.”
The SDF has been the main allies of US forces on the ground in the battle against Isis since 2014. They have been holding thousands of captured jihadists, including scores of westerners, in prisons and tens of thousands of their relatives in detention.
The US and other foreign governments have warned that the Turkish assault could allow Isis militants to escape the Kurdish-run prisons, regroup and plot a comeback.
Ankara has brushed off those concerns.
But their fears were confirmed after the region’s Kurdish-led administration said 785 Isis-affiliated foreigners had escaped a detention camp in Ain Issa at the weekend.
However, the UK-based war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing sources in the camp, said only around 100 people had escaped.
Scores of international leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Mr Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron, have urged Turkey to end the assault and enter into dialogue with the Kurds.
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