Turkey will no longer block refugees trying to get to Europe after 33 of its soldiers were killed in a Syrian government airstrike in Idlib overnight, an official has said.
Police, coastguard and border security officials have been instructed to stand down and allow people access to European borders by land and sea, the official added.
Turkey appears to be trying to pressure European leaders to intervene and help its military halt a Syrian government offensive in Idlib province.
On Friday, NATO held talks on the situation in Syria at Turkey’s request – offering solidarity and support, but no new measures to curb the violence.
Turkey will no longer stop refugees crossing its territory towards Europe after 33 of its soldiers were killed in a Syrian government airstrike overnight, an official has said
Groups of migrants were pictured making their way through Edime, in western Turkey, towards the borders with Bulgaria and Greece early on Friday
Hundreds of refugees were pictured crossing Turkey on the way to Greece and Bulgaria overnight Thursday and Friday morning
Police, border officials and coastguard have all been instructed to stand aside and allow refugees to cross the country towards Europe
A man carrying a child makes his way across Turkey towards border crossings with Greece and Bulgaria on Friday morning
‘NATO allies provide support for Turkey today. We augment their air defences, we have an AWACS plane helping to patrol the skies and we also have port visits and provide support in other ways,’ leader Jens Stoltenberg said.
‘But allies are constantly looking into what more they can do to provide further support for Turkey.’
A spokesman for the Turkish presidency earlier called for a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Idlib.
The Idlib offensive, which is being carried out with Russian backing, threatens to spark a refugee crisis on the Turkish border as millions of civilians risk being indiscriminately targeted in bombings and airstrikes.
Idlib is currently home to some four million people, many of them displaced by fighting elsewhere in the country and living in tent cities along Turkey’s border.
Stoltenberg condemned both Russia and Damascus over the attacks, and urged them to end the violence.
Turkish media published images of hundreds of refugees crossing its territory on the way to Greece and Bulgaria overnight.
By Friday morning some of those had landed in boats on the Greek island of Lesbos, where they were put on to coaches and taken to camps on the island.
A group of 300 people – including Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Moroccans – were pictured crossing Turkish territory.
Turkey struck an agreement with European leaders to halt the flow of migrants through its territory in 2016, but now appears ready to renege on that pledge
By Friday morning some of the refugees – including Iraqis, Afghanis, Syrians and Iranians – had landed on the Greek island of Lesbos
Turkey appears to be trying to pressure European leaders to intervene on its side as it tries to stop a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in Idlib
A child cries as he arrives at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey with other refugees
A dinghy with 15 Afghan refugees, 5 children, 3 women and 7 men, approaches the Greek island of Lesbos early Friday
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to open the gates for migrants to travel to Europe.
If it did so, it would reverse a pledge Turkey made to the European Union in 2016.
EU leaders said on Friday that they expect Turkey to uphold its commitments under the previous agreement.