On Wednesday, the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused Syrian forces of committing massacres in and around Aleppo and said Turkey would face a major new refugee crisis if Syria’s second city fell into their hands.
As U.S. warplanes bomb Islamic State forces in parts of Syria, President Bashar al-Assad’s military has intensified its campaign against some rebel groups in the west and north that Washington sees as allies, including in and around Aleppo.
Ankara has been pushing for the U.S.-led coalition to broaden its campaign and tackle Assad as well as Islamic State, arguing there can be no peace in Syria if he remains in power.
“We are watching the developments in Aleppo with concern. Though the city is not on the verge of falling, it is under extreme pressure,” Davutoglu told reporters late on Tuesday after meeting Turkey’s top generals.
Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city before the war, has been split roughly in half between opposition groups in the east and government troops in the west. Assad’s forces have slowly encircled rebel positions this year trying to cut supply routes.
Davutoglu said Assad’s forces were committing “large massacres” by barrel-bombing areas northeast and west of Aleppo under the control of the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella term for the dozens of armed groups fighting Assad.
“If Aleppo were to fall, we in Turkey would really be confronted with a large, very serious, worrisome refugee crisis. This is why we want a safe zone,” he said.
Turkey already hosts more than 1.5 million refugees from Syria’s civil war and has been pushing the United States and its allies to create a safe haven for refugees on Syrian territory. Any such move on the southern fringe of its border would require a no-fly zone policed by foreign jets.
For the latest news follow us on Twitter
Join our Weekly Newsletter