Merkel Says ‘horrified’ by Russian Bombings in Syria
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that she is “not just appalled but horrified” by the suffering caused by bombing in Syria, primarily by Russia.
Turkey for its part is under pressure from the EU to open its border to up to 35,000 Syrians who have massed along the frontier in the past few days fleeing an onslaught by government forces in the city of Aleppo. The Turkish border crossing of Oncupinar, opposite the Syrian Bab al-Salameh gate, remained closed for a fourth day on Monday as Turkish authorities provided assistance to the Syrians at a displaced persons camp nearby.
It was not clear if or when Turkey would let the group in. Turkey, already home to 2.5 million Syrian refugees, says it has reached its capacity to absorb refugees but has indicated that it will continue to take refugees in.
“We are worried that opening the gates will lead to an increase in refugees,” said Burak Kacacaoglu, a spokesman for the non-governmental Islamic charity group IHH. “We are concerned about the air strikes which are increasingly targeting civilian areas. This is what causes refugees.”
Merkel said: “We have been, in the past few days, not just appalled but horrified by what has been caused in the way of human suffering for tens of thousands of people by bombing primarily from the Russian side.”
“Under such circumstances, it’s hard for peace talks to take place, and so this situation must be brought to an end quickly,” Merkel said.
Davutoglu said Aleppo “is de facto under siege. We are on the verge of a new human tragedy.”
“No one should excuse or show tolerance toward the Russian air attacks that amount to ethnic massacres by saying ‘Turkey takes care of the Syrian refugees anyway,'” Davutoglu said. “No one can expect Turkey to take on the burden on its own.”
Davutoglu said he and Merkel had agreed that an emergency aid group from the two countries would help supply the Syrian refugees at the border.
He added that they would be allowed in to Turkey “when necessary,” without elaborating.
Merkel said the two leaders also discussed how to combine the work of Turkey’s coast guard with that of the EU’s Frontex border agency. She said they will use an upcoming NATO defense ministers’ meeting to discuss “to what extent NATO can be helpful with the surveillance situation at sea” and support the coast guard’s and Frontex’s work
“We will cooperate when it comes to non-Syrians returning home,” she added. Merkel noted that, in January, only 45 percent of those arriving in Greece were Syrians.
Merkel stuck to her insistence that Europe will need to accept “quotas” of refugees arriving by legal channels as part of “burden-sharing,” and that the system needs to be worked out soon. She said that “we can’t expect of Turkey that it stops everything on the one hand, and on the other hand say we’ll talk about the quotas half a year from now.”
Merkel pointed to the 3 billion euros the EU already has promised to Turkey and pledged to get the money flowing quickly.”
Turkey agreed in November to fight smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration. In return, the EU pledged the money to help improve the condition of refugees, and to grant political concessions to Turkey, including an easing of visa restrictions and the fast-tracking of its EU membership process.