Turkey’s main opposition leader promises to resume relations with Syria; return refugees
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chair of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition party in Turkey, promised on Monday that he would re-establish diplomatic relations with Syria and return Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey to their country.
“We’ll open our embassies mutually with the Syrian administration. No fighting,” Kilicdaroglu said at a meeting with local officials in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, which borders Syria, according to the Turkish news site Bianet.
Kilicdaroglu also emphasized that, if elected, his government would peacefully resettle Syrian refugees in their country.
“We’ll send our Syrian brothers and sisters to their country, but we’ll send them in peace, not by fighting,” he said.
He suggested that Turkish peacekeepers could help facilitate such a process.
“We must ensure the safety of life and property of Syrians in their country … We will do it in the same way as the entire world does,” he said. “If necessary, a peacekeeping force will be there for a certain period.”
Turkey hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the world's largest refugee population. Despite claims from the Syrian government and others that parts of Syria are now secure and stable enough for refugees to safely return to their country, rights groups such Amnesty International have documented abuses perpetrated against those who do by the authorities.
Ankara severed ties with Damascus shortly after the Syrian conflict began in 2011. It supported armed opposition groups that tried to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad during that conflict.
Turkey presently has troops deployed across northern Syria, a military presence that Damascus has repeatedly denounced.