European Union border agency on 'high alert' deploys extra staff to Greece


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says 18,000 migrants have crossed Turkish borders into Europe after the country "opened the doors" for them to travel.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation said it is condemning "indiscriminate airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia", Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, after reports said that dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in an attack near Syria's Idlib on Thursday.

The BBC reports, these latest strikes against Turkey come after Turkish-backed rebels recaptured the town of Saraqeb from Syrian government forces on Thursday.

The president added that the influx of migrants would naturally affect borders between Turkey and Europe.

Those who reached the Turkish-Greek border were left stranded after both countries refused them entry.

Gvilava said the IOM was distributing food and other basic supplies, but with temperatures dropping close to freezing "we're concerned about these vulnerable people who are exposed to the elements".

He said several seriously wounded troops were being treated in hospitals.

Migrants react as Greek anti-riot police officers use tears gas on the buffer zone Turkey-Greece border, at Pazarkule, in Edirne district, on February 29, 2020.

Greek authorities said at least 139 migrants have been arrested since Friday.

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Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas afterward told reporters that police had thwarted 4,000 individuals trying to cross its boundaries.

It had received request for support from Greece.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last Saturday the EU was watching the developments "with concern".

Erdogan said Turkey cannot support more people fleeing Syria, telling reporters on Saturday, according to AFP, "We will not close those doors. Why?"

According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the Turkish soldiers were killed in a bombardment while operating alongside terrorists in the Balyun area, where fighters from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance were attacking Syrian government forces.

Ankara has intensified its attacks, including drone strikes, against the Syrian army since Thursday, when 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike by Damascus.

Meanwhile, the Observatory said the Turkish forces have brought in reinforcement into Syria.

"We don't have the desire or intention to clash with Russian Federation", the minister added.

Diplomatic efforts by Ankara and Moscow to defuse tensions have so far fallen short of achieving a ceasefire in the Idlib region of north-west Syria, the country's last significant rebel stronghold, after nine years of civil war. The onslaught has caused nearly a million people - mostly women and children - to flee their homes and shelters, the United Nations says.