ANKARA (Dispatches) – Turkey has ensured the voluntary return of an estimated 530,000 people to the safe zones in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says.
“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 Turkey, making it one of the world’s top refugee-hosting countries. Following the start of a bloody foreign-backed war in Syria, Turkey adopted an “open-door” policy for Syrians fleeing persecution and brutality.
Turkey launched an opreation in April to target the PKK militants’ 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 militants hiding out in northern Iraq.
Since 2016, Ankara has launched a trio of cross-border incursions into northern Syria, saying they were aimed at preventing the formation of a terror group and enabling the peaceful settlement of residents.
In its more than 35-year campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people.
Erdogan’s remarks came at Justice and Development (AK) Party’s “The Century of Turkey” 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.