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Jan 05 2019

Refugees cannot return if Assad rules Syria, says head of Turkish think tank

Moderate opposition should rule Syria instead of Bashar al-Assad for the safe return of refugees in Turkey, said Burhanettin Duran, the head of Turkish think-tank SETA, in his column for pro-government Daily Sabah on Friday.

Turkey's military footprint in Syria and Ankara's support to the moderate opposition are directly related to the safe return of most Syrian refugees from Turkey to their homeland, Duran said. 

Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw some 2.000 American troops in Syria, the United States has been seeking ways to protect the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which forms the backbone of U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State (ISIS)

Turkey announced last month that it would launch a large scale military operation in northeastern Syria against the YPG, which it sees as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group fighting inside Turkey since 1984.

Moscow, on the other hand, is trying to ensure that its ally Assad will regain the control of a larger portion of Syrian territories following U.S. withdrawal, Duran said.

According to Duran, among several stakeholder in Syria, Turkey is the only country that is concerned of a lasting peace in the country. 

“To ensure lasting peace and stability in Syria, two considerations – driving out the YPG militants and integrating the moderate opposition into the new Syria – are of key importance,” Duran said. 

The YPG forces should be eradicated from Syrian territories for neutralising threats to Turkey’s, national security, Duran said. On the other hand, the moderate opposition should be strengthened for the safe of 6 million Syrian refugees in the region, he said.

Turkey hosts around 4 million refugees from Syria, who fled to the country due to civil war. 

“Millions of Syrians abroad will never go back to their country with Assad in charge,” Duran said. According to the columnist, Moscow, will eventually dump Assad, who does not want Syrian refugees to return home, as otherwise the war will never end.