World, Middle East

'Turkey's treatment of refugees lesson in humanity'

Turkish vice president slams cruelty of Greece towards asylum seekers, asks how its actions conform with EU values

Dilara Hamit   | 06.03.2020
'Turkey's treatment of refugees lesson in humanity' Greek police and border units use tear gas and water cannon to disperse the asylum seekers, who came from Istanbul and many provinces of Turkey, waiting in the region between the Kastanies Border Gate and the Pazarkule Border Gate on March 06, 2020. ( Hakan Mehmet Şahin - Anadolu Agency )

MERSIN, Turkey

Turkey has given the world a lesson in humanity by opening its doors and being a safe haven for refugees, the country’s vice president said on Friday.   

Speaking at an event in the southern Mersin province, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay strongly criticized Greece for its cruelty towards asylum seekers.  

“Greece is shooting bullets and using tear gas at innocent people," Oktay said in an address at the inauguration of a hospital, asking: "How does this cruelty conform with the EU’s values?”

The world would be up in arms if Turkey ever acted the way Greece does today, he added.  

"The effects of the crisis in Syria are obvious but the world still questions our presence in the region," Oktay noted.  

He said there was no military solution to end the humanitarian catastrophe being witnessed in Syria, stressing that Turkey was always in favor of diplomacy, negotiations, and a political settlement.  

"But we did not hesitate to use force when it was necessary to ensure the security of our borders, fight terrorism, and prevent human suffering," said Oktay.  

Turkey launched Operation Spring Shield on Feb. 27 after at least 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred in an Assad regime airstrike in Idlib, northwestern Syria.  

Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under a September 2018 deal with Russia, which prohibits acts of aggression in Idlib but was consistently violated by the regime and its allies.  

The operation was also in retaliation to rising regime aggression that led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, who took shelter near Turkish borders.  

In the latest Turkish operation, thousands of regime forces and many of its military hardware -- including battle tanks, war jets, helicopters, air-defense systems, and howitzers -- were neutralized.  

On Thursday, an agreement for a cease-fire in Idlib was reached after an hours-long meeting in Moscow between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.   

* Writing by Dilara Hamit in Ankara.

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