Turkey left alone on tackling Syria refugee crisis, Erdoğan tells world leaders at UN

(L-R) Chinese PM Li Keqiang, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier attend a Leaders Summit for Refugees during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, US, Sept. 20, 2016. (EPA Photo) (L-R) Chinese PM Li Keqiang, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier attend a Leaders Summit for Refugees during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, US, Sept. 20, 2016. (EPA Photo)

President Erdoğan recalled Aylan Qurdi and Omran Daqnesh, the child victims of the Syrian and refugee crisis in his speech at the U.N. summit, expressing disappointment for the unwillingness of Western countries to help overcome the refugee crisis

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed the U.N. Leaders Summit on Refugees late Tuesday and expressed his disappointment in Western countries' reluctance to help tackle the refugee crisis.

During his speech, President Erdoğan said that the international community failed to protect humanitarian rights on the refugee crisis and gave an awful account regarding the issue.

Erdoğan mentioned two children, Aylan Qurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian refugee boy who died last year in the Mediterranean while with his family trying to cross into Greece and was found washed ashore on a Turkish beach, and Omran Daqnesh, the 5-year-old Syrian child who survived the Assad regime's airstrike in Aleppo but was photographed with his face bloodied and completely covered in dust.

"Those sorrowful images will not fade from our memories. Also, we should remember the refugee carrying a child who was kicked and stumbled while running in hope. In a world where babies, women and civilians are being killed, no one can stay blameless," he said.

Erdoğan also mentioned the migrant deal between the EU and Turkey reached in April, saying that Turkey has fulfilled its obligations as a country, decreasing the refugee influx to 50 from last October's 7,000.

"However, the EU failed to keep its promises and left Turkey alone in dealing with the refugee crisis. We will overcome the issue one way or another, however, the international community and the EU cannot give an account of the failure anymore. The goals about the refugee crisis cannot be reached without sharing this burden fairly," Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan said that 600,000 people have been killed and another 12 million displaced since the war began in Syria, adding that Turkey has been hosting 3 million out of the 5 million refugees externally displaced.

"We should remember that these numbers represent 'human beings.' The solution for the issue cannot be solved unless there is empathy with those [refugees] people," he said.

"The real problem that the president actually draws attention to in his speech is the necessity to avoid a 'lost generation' of Syrians, rather than the hosting problem of the refugees," Ayhan Küçük, the director of the International Center for Watching the Violation of Rights (UHİM), told Daily Sabah.

Küçük said that the Syrian refugee crisis is not a temporal issue anymore, as it has persisted for six years with no end in sight, so permanent steps should be taken to offer a real solution on the issue.

"President Erdoğan warned EU countries especially about the main threat, which is the possibility of those 'lost generations' which can be easily turned into a human source for terrorist organizations. As their national, family unity shattered and no one offers them a permanent solution, they become vulnerable targets for these organizations. Turkey is ready to create infrastructure for those people in the safe zone inside Syria. However, we need the EU's help, as the country cannot carry the entire refugee burden itself," Küçük added.

The president also spoke of the efforts to grant citizenship to Syrian refugees. Saying that about 15,000 people have already integrated into business life since receiving technical training, Erdoğan underscored that the refugees who continue their life in the cities are permitted for residency and working and now the government is planning to grant them citizenship.

He said that about 310,000 of 835,000 refugee children have been enabled to continue their education in Turkey thanks to resources provided by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), adding that they aim to provide education to all refugee children.

President Erdoğan also called for an immediate political solution to the Syrian crisis, expressing the need for a safe zone inside Syria and urged world leaders to act against the Gülen Movement at the 71st United Nations General Council on Tuesday. ​

Safe zone in Syria essential

Erdoğan said that Turkey's incursion into Syria came after it had called on world powers for several years asking that they help establish a "safe zone" along the Syrian border, with the aim of clearing out DAESH and the PKK's Syrian wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and its armed wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) stemming from the wave of migrants that has caused tension with Europe.

The president also said that Turkey has no interest in seizing Syrian territory and has no plans to stay there.

"Turkey is the only actor who offers a real solution regarding the Syrian crisis and creating a safe zone is its highest priority," Burhanettin Duran, the general coordinator of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) and a professor at Ankara Social Sciences University, told Daily Sabah.

Duran underscored that a safe zone can serve as a solution for multiple issues and would be beneficial for many actors in Syria. "We saw that a U.S.-Russia cease-fire was not durable and did not solve the main problems.

However, a safe zone may create a suitable environment in northern Syria for a lasting cease-fire and can alleviate the refugee crisis, as they can find a safe haven in this zone," said Duran.

He also added that Turkey has become the country to conduct the most effective fight against DAESH by launching Operation Euphrates Shield in August.

Erdoğan urges world to act against Gülen Movement

Erdoğan also demanded international action against Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) leader Fethullah Gülen, the mastermind of the July 15 coup attempt.

"I am calling out to all our friends to swiftly take the necessary measures against the Gülenist Terror Group for their own safety and the future of their nations," he told the U.N. General Assembly.

"Gülen's 'terrorist network' threatens the national security of not only Turkey but also other countries," he added.

"It is evident from our experience that if you do not fight the Gülen network at this stage, later might be too late."

Erdoğan also said that he takes pride in the Turkish nation for repelling the coup attempt and displaying a very noble stance.
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