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Turkey's Erdogan, presidential rival both vow to send Syrians home

Syrian Refugees | 2018-06-22 12:04:00
Turkey's Erdogan, presidential rival both vow to send Syrians home
President Tayyip Erdogan and his main rival in Sunday's presidential election have both pledged to send millions of Syrian refugees home, responding to growing unease among voters about the number of migrants in Turkey.

More than 3.5 million Syrian refugees who fled conflict in their country are living in Turkey and their presence has become an election issue, with some Turks viewing them as an economic burden and a threat to jobs.

"Right after the election we aim to make all Syrian lands safe, starting from areas near our border, and to facilitate the return home of all our guests," Erdogan said in a speech in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

"But to do this we need to get through June 24 (election day) safely. Syria's stability is dependent on Turkey being strong. Otherwise they will break Syria to pieces," he said.

Erdogan has said 200,000 Syrians have already returned to northern Syrian regions now controlled by Turkey and allied Syrian rebel forces after they launched military incursions to drive back Kurdish and Islamic State fighters.

However, securing militarily a large enough region of Syria to allow the return of more than 3 million refugees would be a far greater challenge and would pit Turkey against other powers entrenched in Syria's conflict, including Russia and Iran.
Reuters
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