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Syria rejects Erdogan's plan to return million refugees to 'safe zone'
Syrian children in camps

Syrian state media reported that Syrian authorities on Friday (May 20) rejected plans by Turkey to return one million Syrian refugees to a “safe zone” on the border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in early May said Ankara was aiming to encourage one million Syrian refugees to return to their country by building them housing and local infrastructure there, the Alarabiya English reported, citing the AFP.

Turkey is today home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, who fled after a civil war broke out in 2011 in Turkey’s southern neighbor.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on the official news agency SANA, Erdogan’s “cheap statements” reveal his regime’s “aggressive games against Syria and the unity of its land and people."

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan/Official Facebook page

Erdogan is facing rising public anger over the refugees’ presence and is wary of the issue dominating elections next year.

He said around 500,000 Syrians have returned to “safe zones” on the Turkey-Syria border since 2016.

These are controlled by Ankara-backed groups. The areas are designed to keep Syrians displaced by war from crossing into Turkish territory, and to allow it to send back others who already did.

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The ministry said: “The government of the Syrian Arab Republic absolutely rejects such games." He called on countries not to finance the Turkish projects and to stop supporting Ankara.

The ministry said: “The main objective is colonialism... The so-called safe zone is in fact ethnic cleansing."

Ankara has periodically carried out military strikes on a Kurdish-administered zone in northeastern Syria, where groups it considers terrorists are based.

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The conflict in Syria has killed nearly 500,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations.

Source: alarabiyaenglish