(Bloomberg) — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would “open the doors” for 3.6 million refugees currently in Turkey to seek shelter in Europe, should his country come under undue criticism.
Erdogan’s threats on Thursday came a day after Turkish troops began a major incursion into northeastern Syria, drawing criticism from the U.S., many European nations and Arab states.
The cross-border military offensive, code-named “Peace Spring,” resulted in deaths of hundreds of “terrorists” since it began on Wednesday, according to Turkey’s military. The operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish militant groups and Islamic State started three days after President Donald Trump said U.S. troops in the area wouldn’t stand in the way.
Here’s a rundown of major events since Thursday morning in local time.
- Erdogan delivered a warning to European nations against calling his Syria campaign an “invasion” a day after Turkish troops began their advance across the border.
- U.S. senators including Lindsey Graham, a key Trump ally, slammed the incursion and threatened to punish Ankara.
- Trump floated the idea of mediating between Turkey and Kurdish militants.
- Seven civilians have been killed on the Turkish side as a result of shelling from areas held by Kurdish militants in Syria. Turkey’s military says it killed hundreds of “terrorists” in the meantime.
- Turkish state banks have been trying to buoy the currency amid a rout in the nation’s markets. The lira was trading 0.1% weaker at 8:34 a.m. in Istanbul on Friday, after a 0.6% advance on Thursday.
Turkey Claims 277 Kurdish YPG Militants Killed (7:00 a.m.)
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said 277 fighters of the Kurdish militant group YPG have been killed since the operation began, a claim that was impossible to verify independently. The ministry said a Turkish soldier was also killed during clashes.
Mortar attacks by the YPG from areas under its control in Syria killed seven civilians in southeast Turkey, including a 9-month-old baby of a Syrian refugee family, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.
Trump Floats Mediator Role in Kurdish Conflict Amid Criticism (11:07 p.m.)
President Trump said the U.S. has three options in dealing with Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria: send the American military back in, unleash punishing sanctions on Turkey or mediate between the two sides.
UN Security Council Holds Closed Hearing (9:52 p.m.)
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency closed-door session on Turkey’s incursion into Syria. Afterward, a group of European ambassadors called upon Turkey to “cease the unilateral military action,” adding that “renewed armed hostilities in the northeast will further undermine the stability of the whole region.”
“It is unlikely that a so-called ‘safe zone’ in north-east Syria, as envisaged by Turkey, would satisfy international criteria for refugee return,” the diplomats from the U.K., Belgium, France, Germany and Poland said.
Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, refrained from criticizing Turkey’s incursion even as she made it clear the U.S. doesn’t endorse it either.
“Failure to play by the rules, to protect vulnerable populations, failure to guarantee that ISIS cannot exploit these actions to reconstitute, will have consequences,” Craft said.
Erdogan Hits Back (1:30 p.m.)
Erdogan said he would “open the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey to seek shelter in Europe, should EU members continue their attacks on his country.
During a speech to the ruling party officials in Ankara, Erdogan hit back at countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which criticized Turkey’s military advance into northeastern Syria. The president warned the European Union against labeling the operation as a form of “invasion” and threatened to unleash a wave of refugees otherwise.
SOHR Says Over a Dozen Kurdish Militants Killed in Action (1 p.m.)
At least 19 Kurdish militants were killed since the Turkish assault began and 38 wounded, according to U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the eight-year Syrian war through activists on the ground.
According to Erdogan, Kurdish forces lost 109 members over the past day and many more were wounded.
SOHR said Syrian forces that are allied with Turkey also lost 9 members during clashes.
Turkish state media say pro-Turkey Syrian rebels pushed Kurdish militants out of two villages near Tal Abyad.
Turkey Cracks Down on Dissent Amid Operation (11:03 a.m.)
Turkey expanded its crackdown on criticizing the government for its decision to begin a new offensive into Syria. An investigation was launched against five lawmakers of pro-Kurdish party HDP, including its co-chairs Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan.
Hakan Demir, an editor at daily Birgun newspaper, was detained by police over accusations that he was inciting hatred with his social media postings.
Turkey Probes Social Media Posts (9:45 a.m.)
Turkey’s police force cracked down on social-media content that it says went against the military operation in Syria. A total of 78 people faced legal action but it wasn’t clear if anyone was immediately detained.
The posts represented incitement to “hatred,” police said on its website, and accused the posters of engaging in “propaganda of a terrorist organization.” The charges carry years in prison if upheld in a court.
Turkish Warplanes in Action (06:20 a.m.)
Turkish F-16 warplanes and artillery units, with howitzers and rocket-launchers, have struck at least 181 targets so far as Turkey’s armed forces began a campaign into northeast Syria against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said early Thursday.
Erdogan: Syrian Airspace Doesn’t Belong to U.S. (1:00 a.m.)
“There is no U.S. airspace over there, there is international airspace. It is Syria’s airspace. Thus, the decision belongs to the regime,” Erdogan told reporters on his way home from Serbia late Tuesday, according to newspaper Haberturk. He said a 1998 treaty gave Turkey authority to use that airspace to target groups Turkey views as terrorists.
Two U.S. defense officials said the U.S. and Turkey are no longer exchanging intelligence or coordinating air sorties in the region. One of the officials, who asked not to be identified, said the U.S. was told Turkish planes were incoming and that the U.S. needed to get its forces out of harm’s way.
–With assistance from Cagan Koc, Taylan Bilgic, Dana Khraiche, David Wainer and Ugur Yilmaz.
To contact the reporters on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at email@example.com;Firat Kozok in Ankara at firstname.lastname@example.org
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