Photo: Reuters

Erdogan urges resettling 1 million refugees in Syria “safe zone”

A two-day summit of the United Nation’s Global Refugee Forum concluded in Geneva this evening, where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for transfer of one million Syrian refugees in a “safe zone” Ankara’s military established in northern Syria. “Of course, all Syrian refugees should enjoy the right of voluntary-return to their motherland,” said Erdogan, adding that “the resettlement programs will be very important for stability and normalization to the established -and it is just as important as fighting terrorism.”

The Turkish President also seized the opportunity to voice criticism against the European Union’s failure to fully provide pledged-funding to Ankara, as well as the world powers’ investment of greater sum to protect Syria’s oil fields than its children. Turkey has spent an estimated $4 billion to house 3.7 million refugees who fled the Arab Republic after civil war erupted in 2011; although a Western diplomat clarified to TV7 that much of that money was funded by European taxpayers.

The Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland, who accused Turkey of attempting to affect a demographic change in northern Syria. “We hear from Ankara that these people are supposed to be pawns on a chessboard and they are going to be placed in a buffer zone inside Syria – from where most of these people do not come,” said Egeland, who formerly served as a U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator. “So that would mean depopulation in an area where it was full of Kurds with Sunni Arabs from Syria – not a good solution,” he stressed, insisting “There needs to be a better plan to facilitate voluntary, safe, informed, assisted return to Syria.”

During Erdogan’s address to the Forum, several demonstrations took place outside of the world body’s building both in support and against the Turkish leader. The most vocal anti-Erdogan activists were from the Kurdish Democratic Society Center in Switzerland, which condemned the United Nations for providing the controversial leader with a platform to promote his campaign to alter the Kurdish regions of Syria. ” We are here to express our disagreement of the fact that he uses the refugee issue to operate on a demographic change in the Kurdish regions – at the borders of Syria and Iraq, and we ask the U.N. not to be an accomplice of such a policy,” said the organization’s Chairperson Ramazan Baytar.

Referring to Erdogan as an “assassin,” “dictator” and a “fascist,” Baytar said it was critical to oppose the Turkish leader’s “policy of normalization and commoditization of the Kurdish people’s genocide.”