MEPs call for sanctions on Turkey as Erdoğan threatens to open migration gates

Members of the European Parliament voted in a resolution strongly condemning Turkey for its military operation in northeast Syria, urging the Turkish military to immediately withdraw from the region and calling for sanctions against Turkish officials.

After the resolution, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again threatened to “open the gates” of migration to Europe.

The European lawmakers on Thursday said Turkey’s “intervention in northeast Syria is a grave violation of international law, undermining the stability and security of the region as a whole,” a press release on the European Parliament’s website reported.

Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring against Kurdish-led groups in northeast Syria on Oct. 9. Despite international condemnation, the Turkish military swiftly advanced to capture a sizable portion of territory before making agreements with Washington and Moscow that will see Turkish troops patrolling an area at least 10 km deep along most of the Syrian side of the border.

The EU condemned Turkey’s operation shortly after its launch, prompting Erdoğan to warn that he would “open the gates” and allow millions of Syrian refugees into Europe if the union called the offensive an invasion.

“MEPs find it unacceptable that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has weaponised refugees and ‘used them to blackmail the EU’,” the EU’s statement said.

“They call on the Council to introduce a set of targeted sanctions and visa bans on Turkish officials responsible for human rights abuses, as well as to consider adopting targeted economic measures against Turkey.”

Meanwhile, Erdoğan on Thursday repeated his threat to allow the refugees into Europe "when the time comes".

"We will never refrain from showing our iron fist under our velvet glove to the ones who see our humanitarian approach as a weakness," Erdoğan said.

The Turkish President said the EU's call for a no-fly zone in northeast Syria and criticisms against Turkey over its military offensive were hypocrisy, since the EU had never sought a no-fly zone when the Syrian government was bombarding civilians from the air.

"The end of the EU will come due to its insincerity and hypocrisy," he said.

Erdoğan plans to create a safe zone in a 32-km-deep area between the border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn, and has said he will use the area to resettle some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey.

The MEPs rejected this plan and called instead for a UN-led security zone to take charge of the area.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry quickly issued a statement rejecting the MEP’s condemnation, saying it had already refuted the points raised by European lawmakers who it accused of serving the interests of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in its decision.

The PKK, which Turkey and the EU list as a terrorist organisation, has pursued Kurdish self-rule through armed struggle since the 1980s. Operation Peace Spring was launched against Syrian Kurdish-led groups affiliated with the PKK.

But the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also played a key role in the international fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), and Turkey’s offensive has raised fears that the extremist jihadist group could resurface.

“MEPs are extremely concerned over reports that hundreds of ISIS prisoners are escaping from camps in northern Syria amid the Turkish offensive, which increases the risk of a resurgence of the terrorist group,” the European Parliament’s statement said.