Millions of Syrians living in Turkey will have a chance to become citizens of the country that gave them shelter, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday.
Speaking in the southern Turkish province of Kilis, which borders Syria and hosts more than 120,000 Syrians, Erdogan said that many of the Syrians now in Turkey want to become citizens of the Republic of Turkey.
"There are steps our Interior Ministry has taken on the issue,” he said.
"We will give the chance to [acquire] citizenship by helping out these brothers and sisters by monitoring through offices set up by the ministry," Erdogan said.
Around 2.7 million Syrians who have fled the civil war in their country are being sheltered at camps inside Turkey.
Referring to the Syrian crisis, which turned violent in 2011 when regime leader Bashar al-Assad cracked down on peaceful protesters, Erdogan said the Syrians had been prevented from governing themselves.
"The organization called Daesh is, in fact, a puppet put forward with this aim. The organization called the PYD, [and] the YGP are subcontractors which were empowered for the same purpose.”
Stating that just as Daesh does not represent Muslims, the PYD and YPG likewise do not represent Kurds, Erdogan said those groups "are tools used for dirty designs on the region by those who hold their leashes in their hands."
About Turkey's attitude toward Syrians, Erdogan said: "Even today we are defending the same principles that we defended six years ago. We are saying the same things."
Syria has remained locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures.
The conflict in Syria has now driven more than 4 million people – a sixth of the country’s population – to seek sanctuary in neighboring countries, making it the largest refugee crisis for a quarter of a century, according to the UN.
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