YAYLADAGI, Turkey - Facing one of the world's largest refugee crises in decades, Turkish officials are urgently appealing for international financial assistance and calling on wealthy nations to start accepting large numbers of Syrian refugees.
The stance marks a shift for the Turkish government, which had long insisted that Ankara would manage and pay for the refugee crisis on its own as a matter of national pride. But with the cost to Turkey hitting $1.5 billion, an estimated 400,000 refugees in the country, and a total of one million expected by the end of the year, pressure is building. Turkey is even willing to organize an airlift, Ankara officials said, but no country seems eager to receive the refugees.
"The international community should not only provide assistance to foot the bill, but they need to step up and open their countries to these refugees," said Levent Gumrukcu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The civil war in Syria and its spillover across the region are expected to dominate President Obama's White House meeting Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Washington has provided $44 million for humanitarian organizations helping Syrian refugees in Turkey, as part of a total of $510 million in aid for Syrians affected by the war. State Department officials said that they had received no formal request from Turkey or the United Nations to accept Syrian refugees but that they were "ready to consider" such a request. At this point, they said, most refugees would still probably prefer to wait for a chance to return home.
But those in Turkey's refugee camps see few prospects of going home soon.
About half the Syrian refugees in Turkey live outside camps, often in crowded and miserable conditions. Fears about the refugee crisis deepened when a car bombing last weekend killed more than 50 people in Reyhanli. The Turkish government blamed it on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.