More than 414,000 displaced Syrians have voluntarily returned to the areas liberated by the Turkish army, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu revealed on Friday.
Speaking at a course in the Ayvalık district in Turkey’s western Balıkesir province, Soylu stated: “Thanks to the security provided by our cross-border operations, 414,061 Syrians have voluntarily returned to their country as of today.”
This was possible, he explained, thanks to the four major military operations carried out by the Turkish army in the last four years, consisting of Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016, Operation Olive Branch in 2018, Operation Peace Spring in 2019 and Operation Spring Shield in March this year.
The first three of these military interventions were aimed at expelling Kurdish militias, such as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), from the Turkish-Syrian border for national security purposes. The latest operation hoped to establish a safe zone stretching 30 kilometers into northeast Syria where displaced Syrians could live.
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“The pressure on the ground that we apply to the PKK, Daesh and its affiliates, our fight against terrorism within the country, clearly shows that our security, in essence, begins along our borders,” Soylu said.
He also cited the hundreds of deaths of Turkish civilians and personnel as a result of the numerous terrorist attacks carried out by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Turkish soil in just over a year, confirming that those attacks claimed more lives. Turks than lost in their regional military operations.
“The total loss of life in these eight attacks that have occurred in 14 months is 369 people, while these did not occur in Iraq or Syria, which has been in civil war for nine years, or in Afghanistan” , he stressed. “All of these have taken place in our country.”
Soylu did not clarify the exact areas the displaced Syrians returned to, but this comes after it was revealed earlier this month that the Turkish Diyanet Foundation built 600 houses for Syrian families in the opposition-controlled northwestern province of Idlib.