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Duvar English / ANKARA

Deputy Foreign Minister and Director for EU Affairs Ambassador Faruk Kaymakçı, speaking at “The Migration Challenge For Turkey And The European Union” meeting organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation held in Ankara, pointed out that Turkey was not able to stand a new wave of immigration, underlining the importance of the safe zone to be formed in Syria.

The meeting was attended by the Head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, Ambassador Christian Berger as well as representatives from Greece, Germany and Turkey. The main topic of the meeting was the safe zone Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to be formed on the east of the Euphrates river for Syrian refugees.

Cooperation with the EU

Keynote speaker Ambassador Kaymakçı said the number of Syrians living in Turkey has reached 3.7 million, in addition to the 400,000 refugees from other nationalities. Turkey has spent almost 40 billion dollars for refugees, he said, pointing out that the EU’s financial cooperation in this issue was inadequate and more was needed. He said it was a must that the refugee crisis be managed together with the EU.

The threat of 300,000 civilians

With the Idlib crisis, nearly 300,000 civilians were heading toward Turkey from the north of Syria, Kaymakçı said. Turkey was in no position to take a new wave of refugees, he explained. Reminding of article 9 of the March 18 agreement reached with the EU in 2016, Kaymakçı said the safe zone was not a need; it was compulsory. He said, “Article 9 says ‘The EU and its Member States will work with Turkey in any joint endeavour to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria, in particular in certain areas near the Turkish border which would allow for the local population and refugees to live in areas which will be more safe.’ We, thus, want a safe zone to be created east of Euphrates on the Syrian soil. We have carried out feasibility studies for the region in terms of setting up agriculture and production areas. We have to keep Syria together. The safe zone will be Syrian soil.”

Stopping the migration wave

Ambassador Kaymakçı said the migration wave from Idlib can be stopped by a safe zone formed in Syria. “We can accommodate new refugees there. Thus, we will not have another wave of migration. If we are not able to stop the new wave of migration, Turkey will not be able to handle this load. We expect all our friendly countries to support this idea. We have to be confident that our borders are cleansed of terror. We will make our borders safe zones. No Syrian citizen [in Turkey] was forced to go back and will not be forced to go back. We want to encoıurage returns to Syria from our country,” he said.

Safe zone cooperation

The safe zone created in Syria will be an area where cooperation with the EU can be conducted, Kaymakçı said, adding, “We do not know yet whether the EU would financially support the safe zone. This region can become one where we can work together with the EU. Some EU funds can be used to build a safe zone in North Syria. The EU will say that it will not spend any money until a political solution is found. The refugee issue has once more reminded that Turkey is of vital importance to Europe. For European security and stability. We want to see we are cooperating with the EU. Some say that Turkey would be a huge burden on the EU; but at this moment, in this refugee crisis, Turkey is carrying Europe’s load in terms of fighting terror and security.”

EU preparing for humanitarian aid

The Head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, Ambassador Christian Berger said the migration wave from Idlip to Turkey was also possessing a security threat. “There are people who should not come from there to here because of security reasons. Thus, we have to continue cooperating with Turkey in terms of both the migration pressure and security. Idlib should not be negatively affecting Turkey and the EU. We have to find a political solution for Syria. Because a military solution is not possible, we need a political solution. Unless a miracle happens and peace comes to Syria tomorrow, nobody is returning. These people will not return unless there is a change in the political system in Syria. If Idlip becomes a crisis, at that point, our humanitarian aid will be delivered. We are making our preparations,” he said.