Turkey says 200 Syrians return to safe zone cleared of Kurdish militants

Turkey said 200 Syrian refugees have returned to a region cleared of Kurdish militants in northern Syria.

The people from the Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn districts have returned voluntarily from Jarablus, thanks to a military incursion by Turkey that began in October, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday. Another 70 families comprising 295 people are on their way to the region, it said.

“The success of Operation Peace Spring, the resulting removal of PKK/YPG terrorists from the region and momentum being gained in fundamental infrastructure work has opened the way for our Syrian brothers to return,” the ministry said on its website.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says his government plans to resettle 2 million Syrian refugees in a 32 km-wide safe zone stretching along Turkey’s border just inside Syria. But the initiative has been compromised by an international outcry over the military intervention and deals with the United States and Russia, which foresee a far smaller area under Turkish control.

Turkey expects more families to make their way back to their homes after it began Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9. The operation was started to rid northern Syria of People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighters who are allied with the United States against Islamic State (ISIS). Turkey labels them terrorists and indistinguishable from the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) armed group in Turkey.