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In first for Turkey, National Security Council addresses Syrian refugee return

Turkey’s National Security Council has openly expressed the need for international support for Syrian refugees to return home.
An aerial picture shows Syrian refugees living in Turkey waiting to take a bus through the northern Bab al-Hawa border crossing, on February 17, 2023, as they return to Syria in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake. - Turkey this week allowed Syrians under its protection who hold ID cards from one of the quake-hit provinces to leave for between three and six months, a rule change designed to reunite families on both sides of the border hit by the February 6 disaster, which has killed more than 41,000 people

ANKARA — Bringing up the return of Syrian refugees publicly for the first time, Turkey’s National Security Council stressed the need for international support to ensure Syrians’ voluntary return to their home country.

Turkey’s National Security Council held its first meeting Thursday after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formed his new cabinet last week. In a statement after the meeting, the council said international cooperation was important to ensure Syrians’ voluntary return in safety and dignity to a peaceful life in their home country.

The statement marks the council's first open acknowledgment of discussing the return of Syrians during its bimonthly meetings. Turkey hosts some 4 million Syrians who fled the civil war. The refugees are among the top grievances of the society, as evidenced by an electoral success of a far-right candidate in the first round of the presidential elections. Sinan Ogan, who built his campaign around the high anti-refugee sentiment in the country, later endorsed Erdogan by joining his ruling alliance.  

The European Union allocated some €6 billion ($6.5 billion) to assist Turkey, which is host to the largest number of refugees in the world. The funding came as part of a deal struck between Ankara and Brussels under a scheme aiming to stop the flow of refugees to Europe. 

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