Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the opening ceremony of the Turkish Parliament in Ankara | Photo: EPA/TURKISH PRESIDENT OFFICE
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the opening ceremony of the Turkish Parliament in Ankara | Photo: EPA/TURKISH PRESIDENT OFFICE

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has presented a plan to transfer at least two million refugees to an area in northeast Syria, saying that Turkey doesn't intend to host refugees forever.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is conscious of the economic, social, and cultural difficulties in hosting the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently in the country, adding it can't "host them forever."

Erdogan shared his plans during the reopening ceremony for the Turkish Parliament in Ankara on Tuesday following the summer recess, and presented new details on a plan to resettle Syrians beyond the Turkish border. According to the plan, Turkey would aim to transfer at least two million refugees and migrants currently hosted to an area in northeast Syria, where 200,000 new residences are being built at an estimated cost of more than $26 billion.


Erdogan called on the international community to help with this enormous investment, threatening to open Turkish borders with Europe if there's no support.

A safe zone is also being drawn up in the region together with the United States as part of the relocation plans.

Forced removal illegal

Various NGOs have accused Turkey in recent months of carrying out forced repatriations of Syrians already, but Ankara has continually denied the accusations. President Erdogan, however, has said in recent years that 360,000 refugees had "voluntarily" reentered Syria in northern areas under Turkish control.

Whether or not those border crossings were voluntary, Turkey is technically not allowed deport Syrians back into their country under international law. And future removals to the safe zone in northern Syria would have to be carried out on a voluntary basis on part of the two million migrants that Erdogan has said he would like to send back to Syria.

No Turkish collaboration with Kurdish fighters

However, there are also some issues on which Turkey and the US don't appear to agree when it comes to their joint operations in that region. Washington supports local Kurdish YPG militants in the area who have been fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad's military for more than 7 years, while Turkey maintains that they are terrorists.

"We don't have other options besides moving forward with our plan east of the Euphrates," Erdogan said, highlighting the differences between the US and Turkey.




 

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