Opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called for contact to be established between the Turkish and Syrian governments while speaking at a conference held by the party in Istanbul on Sept. 28.
“Turkey for quite some time has been the target of terrorist groups. We believe that the struggle against terror in Syria that is being carried out to ensure Turkey's own security is legitimate. However, we believe that the struggle needs to be carried out via the establishment of a relationship with Damascus,” Kılıçdaroğlu said at the CHP's 'International Syria Conference: A Path to Peace in Syria'.
Though President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Syrian President Bashar al Assad once enjoyed warm ties, relations between the two countries fell apart after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, where Turkey supported the opposition groups that were fighting the Assad regime, believing the regime would soon fall.
“Only the Syrian people can decide who will govern Syria. We believe that this is necessary for peace in the entire region,” said CHP vice chairman Veli Ağbaba.
With the support of Damascus allies Russia and Iran, Syria drove out the rebel groups from most of the country, with the exception of the northeastern province of Idlib, which is controlled by a number of groups, including the Syrian offshoot of Al Qaeda. The area is also populated by around 4 million civilians, many of whom fled to province from other rebel-held areas of the country after they were recaptured by the regime.
Erdoğan wants to send 2 million Syrian refugees back through his safe zone proposal
Turkey is currently hosting 3.6 million Syrian refugees, an issue which has become increasingly politically contentious, with the majority of the Turkish population not expressing a positive opinion of the refugees and believing that they should return to their country. President Erdoğan recently called for the establishment of a safe zone by Turkey and the US in northeastern Syria, and said that as many as 2 million Syrian refugees could be resettled there from Turkey.
“It is said that 550,000 Syrians are living in Istanbul, but that number is believed to have exceeded 1 million. Thousands of Syrian children are living in Istanbul without any relatives. 20-25,000 unregistered Syrians and 100,000 Syrians registered [in different provinces] are in Istanbul,” said Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu.
Imamoğlu said that the social policies concerning refugees in Turkey are insufficent, and that the country needs to work with international organizations to help alleviate the serious problems that they face.