Tuesday 11 December 2018

Turkey to quiz EU over €3bn funding for refugees

A wounded Syrian girl walks with her parents in Southeastern Ghouta outside Damascus yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
A wounded Syrian girl walks with her parents in Southeastern Ghouta outside Damascus yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay

Turkey will ask the European Union about the remainder of €3bn funding granted for Syrian refugees living in Turkey during a meeting in the Bulgarian city of Varna next week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday.

Turkey's military operations in Syria will continue further east until several towns stretching hundreds of kilometres towards the Iraqi border have been cleared of militants, Mr Erdogan said yesterday.

Speaking in Ankara a day after Turkish forces and their rebel allies stormed the north-western Syrian town of Afrin, Mr Erdogan said Turkey would also target regions around Manbij, Qamishli, Ayn al-Arab and Ras al-Ain. He also said that Turkey would carry out an offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

The humanitarian catastrophe in Syria deepened after an airstrike on a hospital in Afrin left 16 people dead, including two pregnant women, at the weekend, as thousands fled the city.

The strike, allegedly by Turkey, was in an area where Turkish warplanes are making regular sorties as part of an operation to clear Kurdish militias from the Turkish-Syrian border. Ankara regards the YPG and YPJ groups as terrorist organisations.

But the Turkish military used its official Twitter channel to reject the allegations.

Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo. Fethi Belaid
Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo. Fethi Belaid

"The reports claiming that the hospital in Afrin was bombed by the Turkish armed forces are fake," it said in a tweet, which included aerial photographs and a video of the hospital with a time stamp of Saturday morning.

No damage was visible.

"During the planning and conduct of the operation, only terrorists and their shelters, weapons and equipment are being targeted, while all necessary measures are being taken with utmost care and sensitivity in order not to harm civilian/innocent people and the environment," it added.

More than 15,000 people have fled Afrin in recent days, owing to what the UN has called a "deeply alarming" situation for civilians there.

Analyst Mahir Zeynalov called the situation "very embarrassing" for Ankara, which for years condemned Damascus's attacks on hospitals and now finds it is facing the same allegations itself.

At the same time, on the other side of the country, at least 10,000 people fled the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta as Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded the besieged area.

In recent weeks, evidence has mounted that in addition to the rockets, shelling, airstrikes and barrel bombs levied at civilians in Eastern Ghouta, banned chemical weapons may also have been used by government forces.

Irish Independent

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