EU top official condemns Russian bombing campaign in Syria

European Union Council President Donald Tusk condemns heavy Russian air strikes in Syria stressing that bombardment strengthens Assad regime and leads to massive refugee flow to Turkish border

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

European Council President Donald Tusk addresses delegates during the first 'Thermatic Pledging Session' at the donors Conference for Syria in London, Britain on Feb. 4, 2016.

Russian air strikes in Syria are making a bad situation worse by helping regime leader Bashar al Assad, weakening the moderate opposition and triggering fresh waves of refugees fleeing toward Europe, EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday.

Tusk pointed out that, "As a direct consequence of the Russian military campaign, the murderous Assad regime is gaining ground, the moderate Syrian opposition is losing ground and thousands more refugees are fleeing towards Turkey and Europe." 

Turkey is a transit point for refugees aiming to reach European countries from Syria and Iraq because of its geography bridging the Middle East and Europe.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have been fleeing to the Turkish border north of Aleppo since Thursday, following heavy Russian air strikes and reports of Syrian regime forces and its allies making gains in Aleppo's northern countryside, cutting opposition supply lines to Turkey.

Taking full control of Aleppo would be a huge strategic gain for the Assad regime in the five-year conflict that has killed at least 260,000 people across the country and driven 11 million from their homes.  

Turkey has kept an open-door policy to civilians fleeing Syria throughout the conflict but is coming under growing pressure from Europe to stem the flow of refugees and from the United States to secure the border more tightly.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that “"as required by our conscientious responsibility, we house over 2.7 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Turkey houses the most refugees in the world. Despite its heavy cost, we maintain our open door policy."

Erdogan also underlined that the flow of Syrian refugees into Europe will not stop as long as Russia’n and Syrian regime’ air strikes kill civilians in the country.

"Our European friends want us to stop the refugee flow, is there any other choice for civilians in Aleppo but flee when they are under Russia's heavy bombardment?" he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also raised the issue of Russian intervention to the Syrian conflict in a recent visit to Turkey on Monday.

She said she is shocked by the suffering of civilians in Syria because of regime advances backed by Russian bombing, speaking during a joint press conference with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

"We are now, over the last few days, not only appalled but also shocked by the human suffering of tens of thousands of people through bombing attacks, and also bombing attacks originating from the Russian side," she recounted.

TRTWorld, Reuters