Turkey’s main opposition CHP holds int’l conference on Syria

Turkey's main opposition secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) on Saturday held an International Syria Conference, in which it called for the restoration of peace and stability in the neighbouring war-torn country.

Ankara’s struggle against terror beyond its borders is a right guaranteed by international agreements and engagements, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in the opening speech of the conference attended by CHP deputies, diplomats, academics and experts from a number of countries, independent news site T24 reported. 

Ankara should continue its counter-terrorism efforts with "respect for Syria's territorial integrity and by establishing direct relations with Damascus," Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Turkey backs a number of rebel groups in Syria, who have been facing government forces and their Russian and Iranian allies in the country’s last rebel stronghold of Idlib. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly threatened to invade northeastern areas controlled by Kurdish militants, namely the People’s Protection Units (YPG), that are backed by Turkey’s NATO allies the United States.https://www.yenisafak.com/gundem/chpnin-tartismali-suriye-konferansi-basladi-3508136

Ankara maintains the YPG, which controls parts of northern Syria, is an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus an existential threat. 

The CHP conference addressed issues such as problems faced by Syrian refugees, social life and integration, and the role of local administrations, as well as the strategic role of regional actors, T24 said. 

Istanbul’s opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said the CHP had rolled up its sleeves to work with expert NGOs and academics on the refugees in the city.

Turkey is home to 3.6 million Syrian refugees, half of a million of which live in the financial hub of Istanbul.

"Our final goal is for Syria to attain stability and to facilitate for the Syrians’ return to their lives back home as freely as possible,’’ the CHP mayor of Istanbul said. 

Erdoğan has said an envisaged  “safe zone” in northern Syria could include as many as 3 million Syrian refugees as part of plans for resettlement of the refugees living in Turkey.

The conference has come under criticism for its exclusion of anti-Assad regime voices and Turkey's denial of entry for three participant hopefuls over their anti-Turkey activities, pro-government Yeni Şafak daily reported.

"Not a single representative of the (Syrian) opposition umbrella organisation in Turkey, The Syrian Opposition and the Revolutionary Forces (SMDK), or the Syrian Interim Government has been invited to this so called pro-peace conference. The CHP is effectively ignoring the victims of war who have sought asylum in Turkey for the past eight years,'' the newspaper quoted Chairman of human rights organisation Özgür Der Rıdvan Kaya as saying.