530,000 people voluntarily returned to safe zones in Syria: Turkish president
With cross-border operations, Türkiye has thwarted attempts to create terror corridor along its southern border, says Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Türkiye has ensured the voluntary return of an estimated 530,000 people to the safe zones in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
"We have ensured the voluntary return of approximately 530,000 people to the safe zones we created in Syria," Erdogan said at an event in the capital Ankara.
More than 3.7 million Syrians currently reside in Türkiye, making it the world's top refugee-hosting country. Following the start of a bloody civil war in Syria, Türkiye adopted an "open-door" policy for Syrians fleeing persecution and brutality.
Erdogan said: "We have thwarted attempts to create a terror corridor along our southern border with the operations of Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch, Claw, Peace Spring, Spring Shield, and Claw-Lock."
Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Lock in April to target the PKK terror organization’s hideouts in northern Iraq’s Metina, Zap, and Avasin-Basyan regions near the Turkish border.
It was preceded by Operations Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle launched in 2020 to root out terrorists hiding out in northern Iraq and plotting cross-border attacks in Türkiye.
Since 2016, Ankara has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (2019).
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
Century of Türkiye' name of a revolution: Erdogan
Erdogan's remarks came at Justice and Development (AK) Party's "The Century of Türkiye" event, where he unveiled a series of programs, projects, and targets ahead of the next year's presidential and general elections as the country prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2023.
"We share with all humanity the happiness that the "Century of Türkiye" is also the name of a revolution that will bring democracy, development, peace, and prosperity to all parts of the world, starting with our country and our region," the president added.
Erdogan said that at a time when the world is facing "vital challenges," Türkiye wants to make a strong start to the new century of the republic.
Vowing to make Türkiye one of the 10 greatest states in the world in the fields of politics, economy, technology, military, and diplomacy, Erdogan said the country makes efforts to ensure peace in the world to talk with conflicting parties.
"At a time when wars, conflicts, and tensions are increasing all around us, we are the only country that makes sincere efforts for peace by establishing an equal, moral, and fair relationship with all parties," he said, adding that Türkiye is getting "more and more appreciation" with its humanitarian and conscientious stance.
Türkiye has been in close contact with both Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of the war in February. Erdogan has repeatedly stressed his wish to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy together at the negotiating table in Türkiye to end the war.
After having talks with Russia, Erdogan said: "Hopefully, we will distribute the natural gas coming from Russia through Türkiye to Europe as TurkStream."
Ankara and Moscow will work jointly on building a natural gas hub in Türkiye's Thrace region after a Russian proposal.
About Türkiye's natural gas explorations, Erdogan said: "We have discovered a total of 540 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea. Hopefully, we will share the joy of new good news in energy with our nation soon."