Turkey opens gates into Europe as migrants gather on border


"Syrian military high command announces the closure of the airspace for planes and any drone above northwestern Syria and especially above the Idlib region", state news agency SANA reported a military source as saying.

Meanwhile, migrants have gathered at the Turkish-Greek border in front of the Pazarkule border point - a buffer zone surrounded by a barbed wire barrier set up by Greek security forces.

He warned the Syrian government to "stop its attacks as soon as possible" and to pull back by the end of the month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is anxious that the continued attacks on Idlib will draw hundreds of thousands of more refugees to Turkey, a state inundated by those fleeing regional conflicts. He said it had destroyed a drone, eight helicopters, 103 tanks, as well as rocket launchers and other military equipment.

Akar added that 2,212 members of the Syrian forces had been "neutralized", a term used to designate killed, wounded or captured.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the air strikes were carried out by government ally Russian Federation, which has come under heavy Western criticism for the high civilian death toll from its bombing campaign.

The latest developments have strained relations between Ankara and Moscow. "This is not concern about human rights, this is capitulating before terrorists and even a reward for their activities", Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said at United Nations meeting in Geneva.

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"Our expectation from Russian Federation at this point is to fulfill its commitments as the guarantor country, and in this context, to use its influence on the regime (Syrian government) to make it halt its attacks and withdraw to the borders set with the Sochi Agreement", said the minister.

Diplomatic efforts by Ankara and Moscow to defuse tensions have so far fallen short of achieving a ceasefire in the Idlib region of north-west Syria, the country's last significant rebel stronghold, after nine years of civil war.

The mass displacement in Idlib has raised the possibility that Turkey might come under growing worldwide pressure to open its now sealed border with Syria and offer refuge to desperate Syrian civilians.

EU countries fear another influx of refugees from Syria after more than one million made their way there in 2015 before an EU-Turkey accord was reached on controlling the numbers. President Erdogan had earlier threatened to confront Syrian government forces if they did not withdraw from positions near the Turkish observation posts.

Russian Federation has insisted that Turkey removes extremist militant groups from Idlib. Turkey is opposed to the government of Bashar al-Assad and supports some rebel groups.

It added that Syrian troops at the time were repelling attacks by "terrorist groups backed by Turkey".

The Kremlin said it hoped Erdogan and Putin would meet on Thursday or Friday.