Updated Mar 1, 2020 - World

Turkey and Syria clash in Idlib as refugees head for Greece

Smoke billowing over the village of Qaminas on March 1 following a Russian airstrike

Smoke billowing over the village of Qmenas on March 1 following a Russian airstrike. Photo: Ibrahim Yasouf/AFP via Getty Images

Syrian state media said on Sunday that Turkish forces downed two of its warplanes over Idlib, after Syria destroyed a Turkish drone and announced it was closing its airspace over the northwest region, AP reports.

Why it matters: Tensions are continuing to escalate between NATO ally Turkey and the Syrian regime, which is backed by Russia and has been conducting a deadly offensive in the last rebel-held areas of Idlib.

  • The result thus far has been the darkest chapter of Syria’s brutal nine-year civil war, with a massive humanitarian crisis threatening to collide with a dangerous geopolitical showdown.

The big picture: With hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrian refugees fleeing toward the Turkish border, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Saturday he would open Turkey's border with Europe — claiming that his country cannot sustain more than the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it already hosts.

  • At least 13,000 refugees had amassed on Turkey's border with Greece on Sunday, according to the UN.
  • “Europe and others must take robust action to address this monumental challenge," a Turkish spokesman told AP. "We can’t be expected to do this on our own.”
  • Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted Sunday that the country will not accept asylum applications for one month, and that it will invoke a special provision in a key EU treaty to "ensure full European support."

Go deeper: Syria's darkest chapter

Editor's note: This story has been updated with news that Greece will turn away asylum seekers.

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