Turkey building model area in Syrian ‘safe zone’ – vice president

Turkey is building a model settlement for Syrian refugees inside an area of northern Syria captured during its cross-border military operation in October, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told Anadolu state news agency on Wednesday.

“We are working on an area where the Syrians can live and the Syrians in Turkey can return voluntarily,” Oktay said. "We are thinking of building an area in 2020 that can serve as a model, at least physically.”

Anger has been growing among Turkish citizens at the presence of more than 3.6 million refugees from Syria in the country. When Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring against Kurdish militias on its border in Syria on Oct. 9, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also vowed to build what he called a safe zone to resettle many of the Syrians.

Oktay stressed that Turkey was seeking foreign financial support to build the new settlements, adding that Turkey “cannot face the problems caused by the world on our own”.

Turkey says the safe zone could be used to resettle 1 million Syrians or more, and says the refugees would only be returned to Syria voluntarily. Critics of the policy have raised fears that the process could be used to displace Kurds with Syrian Arabs and demographically re-engineer the region.