Middle East

Some 1,500 Turkmen flee Syrian war for Turkey: governor

This file picture taken on October 4, 2014 shows Turkish soldiers checking the Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

ISTANBUL: Around 1,500 members of Syria's Turkmen minority have fled to the Turkish border to escape renewed fighting in the northwest of the country, a Turkish official said Sunday.

Turkey has expressed concern in recent days over Russian air raids in the area, fearing they are aimed at hitting Syrian opposition fighters and bolstering the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Meanwhile, Turkmen fighters backed by Turkey have launched their own ground operation in northern Syria to retake territory controlled by ISIS.

"As of today, around 1,500 of our Turkmen brothers and sisters have come to our border region," the governor of Turkey's Hatay region on the Syrian border Ercan Topaca was quoted as saying by Turkish news agencies.

"Of course we are ready to meet their every need, especially as winter conditions are starting," he said, adding that 575 tents had already been sent as well as blankets, food and medical supplies.

Turkey says it has taken in a total of 2.2 million refugees from Syria's four-year civil war and still maintains an "open door policy" while warning its capacity to take more is limited.

Topaca said the authorities are preparing for a possible new wave of migration from the affected area, with 15 mainly Turkmen villages in the conflict zone with a total population of up to 35,000, including ethnic Arabs.

Ankara has expressed fury over the bombing campaign by Russian and Syrian regime jets in the region, summoning Moscow's ambassador last week to protest.

The Turkmen are a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority who live alongside Arab and Kurdish populations and have traditionally had uneasy relations with the Syrian regimes of Bashar Assad and his late father Hafez.

They have close ties to Turkey, which sees the minority as allies in its push to oust Assad from power.

 

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