Turkiye has ensured the voluntary return of an estimated 530,000 people to the safe zones in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, Anadolu News Agency reports.
“We have ensured the voluntary return of approximately 530,000 people to the safe zones we created in Syria,” Erdogan said at an event in the capital, Ankara.
More than 3.7 million Syrians currently reside in Turkiye, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country. Following the start of a bloody civil war in Syria, Turkiye adopted an “open-door” policy for Syrians fleeing persecution and brutality.
Erdogan said: “We have thwarted attempts to create a terror corridor along our southern border with the operations of Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch, Claw, Peace Spring, Spring Shield and Claw-Lock.”
Turkiye launched Operation Claw-Lock in April to target the PKK terror organisation’s hideouts in northern Iraq’s Metina, Zap, and Avasin-Basyan regions near the Turkish border.
It was preceded by Operations Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle launched in 2020, to root out terrorists hiding out in northern Iraq and plotting cross-border attacks in Turkiye.
Since 2016, Ankara has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror group and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Peace Spring (2019).
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkiye, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
‘Century of Turkiye’ name of a revolution: Erdogan
Erdogan’s remarks came at Justice and Development (AK) Party’s “The Century of Turkiye” event, where he unveiled a series of programs, projects and targets ahead of next year’s presidential and general elections, as the country prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2023.
“We share with all humanity the happiness that the “Century of Turkiye” is also the name of a revolution that will bring democracy, development, peace and prosperity to all parts of the world, starting with our country and our region,” the President added.
Erdogan said that, at a time when the world is facing “vital challenges,” Turkiye wants to make a strong start to the new century of the Republic.
Vowing to make Turkiye one of the 10 greatest States in the world in the fields of politics, economy, technology, military and diplomacy, Erdogan said the country makes efforts to ensure peace in the world to talk with conflicting parties.
“At a time when wars, conflicts and tensions are increasing all around us, we are the only country that makes sincere efforts for peace by establishing an equal, moral and fair relationship with all parties,” he said, adding that Turkiye is getting “more and more appreciation” with its humanitarian and conscientious stance.
Turkiye has been in close contact with both Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of the war in February. Erdogan has repeatedly stressed his wish to bring Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, together at the negotiating table in Turkiye to end the war.
After having talks with Russia, Erdogan said: “Hopefully, we will distribute the natural gas coming from Russia through Turkiye to Europe as TurkStream.”
Ankara and Moscow will work jointly on building a natural gas hub in Turkiye’s Thrace region after a Russian proposal.
About Turkiye’s natural gas explorations, Erdogan said: “We have discovered a total of 540 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea. Hopefully, we will share the joy of new good news in energy with our nation soon.”