Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in a speech on Thursday that Turkey’s military operations in northwest Syria could pave the way for the return of many of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey, Cumhuriyet newspaper reports.
“We are not in a position to continue hosting 3.5 million refugees forever,” said Erdoğan at a speech to village and provincial leaders at the Presidential Palace in Ankara.
Turkey has played a leading role in accommodating the millions of refugees forced out of Syria since the early days of the country’s bloody conflict.
“Those who think we have no place in our hearts for the lands that we wept to retreat from a century ago are mistaken,” said Erdoğan, referring to the loss of its Syrian territories by the Ottoman Empire during World War One.
The Turkish president stated that, since Turkey had taken control of 2,000 square kilometres of territory in northern Syria during the 2016-17 Euphrates Shield military operation, 135,000 refugees had returned to Syria.
Turkey has reconstructed cities and infrastructure in this region, ensuring conditions for the safe return of the refugees to towns including Jarabulus and al-Bab, said Erdoğan.