ANKARA — Bringing up the return of Syrian refugees publicly for the first time, Turkey’s National Security Council stressed the need for international support to ensure Syrians’ voluntary return to their home country.
Turkey’s National Security Council held its first meeting Thursday after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formed his new cabinet last week. In a statement after the meeting, the council said international cooperation was important to ensure Syrians’ voluntary return in safety and dignity to a peaceful life in their home country.
The statement marks the council’s first open acknowledgment of discussing the return of Syrians during its bimonthly meetings. Turkey hosts some 4 million Syrians who fled the civil war. The refugees are among the top grievances of the society, as evidenced by an electoral success of a far-right candidate in the first round of the presidential elections. Sinan Ogan, who built his campaign around the high anti-refugee sentiment in the country, later endorsed Erdogan by joining his ruling alliance.
The European Union allocated some €6 billion ($6.5 billion) to assist Turkey, which is host to the largest number of refugees in the world. The funding came as part of a deal struck between Ankara and Brussels under a scheme aiming to stop the flow of refugees to Europe.
According to an exclusive report the Guardian published on Wednesday, the United Kingdom also provided more than £3 million ($3.8 million) in funding to Turkey last year in a bid to help the country’s border forces prevent migrants from reaching the UK.
The return of Syrians also remains high on the agenda of Russia-brokered talks between Ankara and Damascus that began late last year after more than a decade of hostilities. Turkey backs Sunni Syrian rebels who fought to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The National Security Council also alluded to the ongoing high-level talks without directly mentioning them. “Maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity and achieving lasting peace and stability can only be possible by clearing the country of terrorist organizations,” read the statement in an apparent jab at the Syrian government’s steadfast demand for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the war-torn country.
Turkey controls a large chunk of territory in Syria’s north through its Syrian rebel proxies as a result of four ground incursions into the country since 2016. Three of them targeted US-allied Syrian Kurdish groups that Ankara considers terrorists.
Source : Al Monitor