Turkey wants Syrian forces to leave border region

Source: The Hill | October 19, 2019 | John Bowden

Turkey’s president said Saturday that Syrian armed forces should withdraw from an area of Syria near the border with Turkey so that Turkish armed forces can resettle as many as 2 million refugees in the region.

A spokesman for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told The Associated Press that the resettlement will be impossible without the withdrawal of both Kurdish and Syrian forces from the region, as the refugees currently being housed in Turkey do not wish to return to areas controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Turkey will also discuss the issue with Russia, the spokesman said.

“This is one of the topics that we will discuss with the Russians, because, again, we are not going to force any refugees to go to anywhere they don’t want to go,” Erdogan’s spokesman said. “We want to create conditions that will be suitable for them to return where they will feel safe.”

The refugees, he added, “don’t want to go back to areas under regime control.”

Kurdish forces agreed to a five-day ceasefire with Turkey brokered by the Trump administration that went into effect on Friday, though the agreement is contingent upon the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from the area, which has not yet occurred.

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