(Sputnik/NAN) Turkey will send back to Syria one million refugees as the first step, while two more million will follow, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
Erdogan made this known in his address at the Turkic Council in Baku on Tuesday.
“With God’s help, we will within a very short period of time make our border stretching up to Iraq safe, and one million refugees will return (to Syria) as the first step.
“And two more million refugees as the second step,” he said.
The Turkish leader has already pledged to “open the door” for Syrian refugees if Ankara’s ongoing offensive in Syria’s north, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, is qualified as invasion.
The Turkic Council in full, the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States, is an international organisation comprising some of the Turkic countries.
The member countries are Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey, with the remaining two Turkic states – Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – not currently official members of the council due to their neutral stance.
However, they are possible future members of the council.
The General Secretariat of the council is in Istanbul, Turkey.
Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that it had boosted aid in northeastern Syria as the Turkish offensive triggered another wave of civilians fleeing their homes in fear of hostilities.
On Oct. 9, Turkey launched an offensive in northern Syria in a bid to create a “safe zone” along the border that would be free of Kurdish militias, whom it considers an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (banned by Ankara).
The military operation has already displaced at least 160,000 Syrians, the UN said on Monday.
UNHCR said that since the escalation of violence in north-east Syria last week, it had provided help to at least 31,800 people in the region.
In particular, it distributed blankets and “other core relief items” to the residents of Al Hasakah and Tall Tamr.
It also sent additional aid, such as blankets, plastic sheeting and solar lamps to the border town of Qamishli.
The agency noted that it was still assessing the needs of the newly arriving displaced people across the region, adding that people often fled their homes “without papers and other belongings,” with families separated.
“Amid the continued fighting, some 184 people crossed from north-east Syria into neighbouring Iraq on Monday, with a further 277 arriving overnight into Tuesday.
“It is estimated that another 2,000 people who have fled the latest fighting in north-east Syria are currently close to the Syria-Iraq border,” it said.
UNHCR also expressed concerns over the Kurds-run Ayn Issa camp, where displaced people and suspected members of the Islamic State terrorist organisation (IS, banned in Russia) are held.
Last week, the Kurdish authorities reported that at least 785 IS affiliates had escaped a prison camp with the help of “Turkish mercenaries”, but Ankara has refuted the claim.
“As of today, humanitarian workers are unable to safely access the camp to provide critical life-saving assistance.
“Basic services, including food and water, are no longer being provided,” the UN agency said.
The Syrian government views the Turkish incursion as an act of aggression, having dispatched forces to the north at the Kurds’ request. (Sputnik/NAN)
Edited by Emmanuel Yashim