(Photo credit: Daily Sabah)
Syria has rejected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements, made on 3 May, in relation to the return of one million Syrian refugees to so-called ‘safe zones’ on the border between the two countries, according to the official SANA news agency.
“The statements made by the Turkish head of state … reveal the aggressive games of this regime against Syria and against the unity of its people,” the Syrian news agency said, citing a statement from the Syrian Foreign Ministry.
“The Syrian government rejects these plans and calls on the states … that are involved in financing these criminal projects to stop supporting the Turkish government immediately,” the statement said.
The ministry went on to say that ”the creation of such zones is not intended to protect the border areas between Syria and Turkey.
Instead, the ministry explained, “the main objective is colonialism” and the implementation of “terrorist plans directed against the Syrian people.”
In early May, President Erdogan said Turkey plans to return one million Syrian refugees to areas dominated by the Turkish Armed Forces in northern Syria and to provide them with the infrastructure needed to rebuild their lives.
“We are preparing a project to ensure the voluntary return of one million of our Syrian brothers who we are hosting now,” the president said in a video message broadcast by the Turkish public broadcaster TRT.
The opposition claims that Erdogan seeks to encourage the resettlement of Syrians shortly before the 2023 elections in order to win votes among those who see the presence of refugees as a burden on Turkey, already weighed down by a serious economic crisis.
Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), concerned over what the they see as the threat of ‘Arabization’, have stepped up efforts to rally international support against the Turkish initiative to resettle Syrian refugees under Ankara’s control in northern Syria.
The Kurdish militant group launched a series of demonstrations last week, highlighting Turkish human rights violations against Kurds in Afrin in a bid to gain international sympathy.
The US-backed militia has also reportedly set up a dialogue forum to discuss Ankara’s resettlement project.
This is not the first time Kurdish forces in northern Syria have tried to maintain their demographic superiority over the areas they control.
In January, the SDF introduced an expatriate card for Arab citizens who arrive from areas controlled by the Syrian government.
At the time, the Kurdish group also demanded that all displaced Syrians leave the areas under their control unless they have a sponsor for their residence.