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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Syrians will return after safe zones are established, official says

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Syrians will return to their country as safe zones are gradually established in the war-torn country’s northern regions, close to Turkey’s border, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chair Numan Kurtulmuş said Saturday. Kurtulmuş, during an interview on CNN Türk, said that one reason why military operations across the border are carried out is to establish a safe zone in these areas to encourage the voluntary return of Syrians. Saying that so far around 500,000 Syrians have voluntarily returned, Kurtulmuş said this number would increase as safe zones are created and the necessary conditions established. On the other side, the foreign ministry of the Bashar Assad regime during the weekend has objected to Turkey’s proposal to establish safe zones for the return of Syrian people. On the other side, while Syrians living in regime-controlled areas already suffer from difficult living conditions and the regular attacks of the Assad regime and its backer Russia, a border crossing, holding millions of people to life, is at risk of being closed. As the mandate for a vital humanitarian corridor is coming to an end in July, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador says he sees no reason to continue humanitarian aid deliveries from Turkey to the opposition-controlled northwest of Syria. Dmitry Polyansky told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that “we are not okay” with preserving the status quo at any cost. He said supporters of cross-border aid deliveries “show no wish” to enable aid deliveries across conflict lines from Damascus which could be easily arranged, “which leaves us no reason to preserve the cross-border mechanism.” In early July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have maintained two border crossing points from Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid to Idlib. Days later, the council authorized the delivery of aid through just one of those crossings, Bab al-Hawa. That one-year mandate was extended for a year on July 9, 2021, and expires in about six weeks. U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told the council Friday that the U.N. is doing its “utmost” to expand cross-line aid deliveries, and is working toward a fifth convoy this year. But he stressed that “cross-line operations cannot under current conditions replace the size or the scope of the massive U.N. cross-border operation.” “Failure to renew the authorization will disrupt life-saving aid for the people living in the northwest, including more than one million children,” he said. Last month, his deputy Joyce Msuya, told the council “a staggering 4.1 million people” in the northwest need humanitarian aid, with almost a million people, mainly women and children, living in tents, “half of which are beyond their normal lifespan.” She said last year the U.N. sent some 800 trucks of cross-border aid to the northwest each month, “consistently reaching 2.4 million people.” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who said she will be making a return visit to the Bab al-Hawa crossing in the coming weeks, stressed that it is in the interest of everyone, including Russia and Syria, “to prevent a dire humanitarian situation in Syria from growing worse and more desperate.”


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