EU will not provide financial aid for Turkey’s Syria safe zone, says official

The European Commission on Wednesday repeated that the EU would not provide Turkey with financial aid for planned settlements in the safe zone in northern Syria.

The Deputy Director-General for the European Commission’s Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Maciej Popowski, said that the 28-member bloc could not provide aid for the zone, in which Turkey is looking to resettle millions of refugees.

"The EU cannot provide aid to the settlement areas Turkey wants to establish in Syria. The return of the Syrian refugees to their country should take place on the principal of willingness,’’ left-wing news site Artı Gerçek quoted Popowski as saying during a commission meeting on Syrian refugees.

The European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Deputy General-Director Michael Köhler said that it was also not legally possible for the EU to provide financial aid for the zone.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this month presented UN Secretary-General António Guterres with a plan for resettling hundreds-of-thousands of Syrian refugees, in the wake of the country’s offensive into northeastern Syria last month targeting Kurdish force.

The offensive aims to create a so-called safe zone along the border that is free of Kurdish forces and will accommodate the eventual return of millions of the country's 3.6 million refugees. 

Erdoğan last week said that Turkey planned to establish a "refugee town or towns" in that region between Syria’s Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn, part of a project which Turkish state media have said would cost 151 billion lira ($26 billion).