Turkey to propose a donors’ conference for Syria at NATO meet
Turkey will propose a donors’ conference for the return of Syrians to a safe zone being set up in northeastern Syria at next week’s NATO summit, the Turkish president has said, adding that the oil-rich Qatar would also contribute to the funding of the construction of new settlements in the province.
“We will propose an international donors’ conference [at the NATO Summit]. I have raised this issue with Mr. [United States President Donald] Trump, Mr. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Mr. [Qatari Emir] Tamim al-Thani. Qatar is not a NATO member but is a very sensitive country on these issues,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters on his return from a one-day trip to Qatar late Nov. 25.
“I had already introduced the projects concerning [the settlement of Syrians] in the region we call ‘the peace corridor.’ Mr. Tamim liked those projects.”
Turkey is aiming to build new residential areas in an area between Tal Abyad and Ras’ul Ayn in northeastern Syria for the return of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. The area is controlled by the Turkish army and the Free Syrian Army as a result of Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring.”
Erdoğan had introduced the booklets that outline Turkey’s housing plans in northeastern Syria to world leaders during the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September. According to Turkish estimates, the return of one million Syrians require at least $27 billion, a sum of money which could only be collected through the contributions of the international community
The NATO Summit will take place on Dec. 3 and 4 in London and will also stage a four-way summit between Turkey, France, Germany and the U.K. to discuss all the Syria-related developments.
Erdoğan will call on the leaders of these countries to join its efforts for the return of Syrians.
“If we can build these houses, it will set a precedent to the world. We can take a step particularly between Tal Abyad and Ras’ul Ayn. Even the start of such a project on a 120-kilometer-long and 30-kilometer-deep area would be an example for the world and Syria on refugee matters,” he said.
Turkey slams the Arab League
On a question, Erdoğan said Qatar seems to be ready to walk with Turkey on this project but without further details.
Erdoğan slammed the Arab League for its accusations that the Turkish military offensive was against the Kurds.
“Some 350,000 of 4 million refugees in Turkey are Kurds. Arabs, Chaldeans, Yezidis and others are making up the rest of 3.5 million. It’s Turkey that is taking the pain and that has spent more than $40 billion,” he stated.
“As they don’t see all these, the members of the Arab League have not lent even one penny of support to this region. And after all, they attack Turkey shamelessly.”
Talks with the US on S-400 continue
Erdoğan also responded to the questions on the continued S-400 row between Turkey and the U.S.
Underlining that there is an ongoing process until April 2020, the date when Turkey will fully activate the Russian S-400 air defense systems, Erdoğan informed that the defense and foreign ministers from Turkey and the U.S. will come together to pursue this work.
“We have to see to what point we will arrive at through these talks,” he said. This is rather a matter of NATO and not about “whether it will be used or not,” Erdoğan stated. “There are steps that need to be taken within NATO rules. Our friends will work.”
Recalling that the decision to establish a commission to work on the S-400s was made at his meeting with Trump on Nov. 13 in Washington, Erdoğan said “Mr. Trump has conveyed the message that ‘You examine the matter and let’s see what the results will be’,” he added.