Turkey is unlikely to repatriate three million Syrian refugees to northern Syria, but even if it does, this could create an “ethnic conflict,” according to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Nobody believes that Turkey will repatriate three million Syrian refugees to this area; this is a deceptive humanitarian slogan. Even if they wanted to, this is not possible because it would create a conflict between the owners of the land, the cities, the villages, the homes, the farms, and the fields on the one hand, and these newcomers, on the other; those who own these places will never renounce their rights in these areas, so this would create an ethnic conflict,” Assad said in an interview given to Russia-24 and Rossiya Segodnya on Nov. 15.
On Oct. 9, Turkey launched a military operation into northeastern Syria dubbed “Operation Peace Spring.” Turkish authorities said the offensive aimed to eliminate threats from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and ISIS militants, and enable the return of Syrian refugees in Turkey after the formation of a “safe zone” in the area.
In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that an expanded “safe zone” in northern Syria could include as many as three million people and stretch for 50 miles as far as Raqqa.