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Refugees in Turkey heading to European borders


Refugees in Turkey heading to European borders

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OUTSIDE SARAQEB, Syria/ANKARA – Refugees in Turkey headed toward European frontiers on Friday after an official declared that borders had been thrown open, a response to the escalating war in Syria where 33 Turkish soldiers were killed by Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

Moscow and Ankara traded blame over the strike in northwest Syria, the deadliest attack suffered by Turkey’s army in nearly 30 years. The UN Security Council called an emergency meeting to avert open conflict between Russia and NATO member Turkey.

Donald Trump, in a telephone conversation with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, condemned Thursday’s attack on Turkish troops and reaffirmed US support for Ankara’s efforts to avert a humanitarian disaster in Syria, a White House spokesman said.

The two leaders also said Syria and Russia must halt their offences in northwest Syria, spokesman Judd Deere said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the escalation of fighting was “one of the most alarming moments” of the Syrian war and called for an immediate ceasefire.

Turkey’s neighbours Greece and Bulgaria reinforced their borders in response to Ankara’s threat to reopen the frontier, shut under an accord that halted the 2015-16 migration crisis when more than a million people crossed into Europe by foot.

“We have decided, effective immediately, not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“All refugees, including Syrians, are now welcome to cross into the European Union,” the official said, adding that police and border guards had been stood down.

Within hours, a column of dozens of migrants was heading on foot toward the European frontier in the early morning light.

“We heard about it on the television,” said Afghan migrant Sahin Nebizade, 16, in a group packed into taxis on a highway.