ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Thursday that gates for Syrian refugees to leave for Western countries would be unlocked if a safe zone in northeastern Syria is not implemented with international support.
He added that Turkey would create this safe zone even if there is no deal with the US until the end of September.
Ankara, which controls some parts in northern Syria, is planning to resettle about 1 million Syrian Arabs out of the 3.65 million refugees in the safe zone that is being planned with the US. Some 350,000 Syrians are reported to have already returned to the area.
“This either happens or otherwise we will be forced to open the gates. Either you will provide support, or excuse us, but we cannot be forced to handle the burden alone,” Erdogan said, adding that “Turkey can build towns there in lieu of the tent cities to provide them with humanitarian living conditions.”
According to Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, no refugee policy should be based on claims about safe zone implementation.
“In opposition-held Idlib, 3 million civilians are at risk of indiscriminate Russian and Syrian bombardment, including the deliberate targeting of medical facilities. One thousand civilians have been killed in the past month,” Roth told Arab News,
He added that in government-controlled Syria, security forces continue to detain perceived opponents in Assad’s centers of torture and execution, where tens of thousands of people have disappeared.
Dr. Michael Tanchum, a senior associate fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Studies, said: “President Erdogan is attempting to change the facts on the ground on both sides of the Turkey-Syria border. The mass deportation of refugees to northeastern Syria removes a flashpoint for the ruling AKP government when the Turkish economy continues to be weak and the people are feeling anxious and economically vulnerable.
“Turkey wishes to permanently change the demographic profile of northeastern Syria to preclude the possibility of a Kurdish-dominated autonomous region from emerging along Turkey’s southern border.”
On Aug. 7, Turkish and US military officials agreed to set up a safe zone and a peace corridor starting from the Euphrates to the Iraqi border.