The leader of Turkey's main opposition party stressed the role of the will of the Syrian people in the future of Syria, calling on the government to contact the Bashar Assad regime as a way of restoring peace and stability in the war-torn country.
"The channel between Ankara and Damascus is the easiest way to peace," Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said during an international Syria conference in Istanbul organized by his party on Saturday.
The CHP has been diverging from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) regarding priorities and solutions on the Syrian civil war. While the opposition put forth the necessity of discussing the peace process with the regime, the AK Party, along with a significant part of the international community, thinks that Syria's long-time dictator Bashar Assad and his brutal regime has no place in the country's future.
The conference addressed topics including the international dimension of the Syrian issue, problems faced by Syrian refugees, social life and integration, the strategic role of regional actors and the role of local administrations.
The party's attitude has become stricter as the war in Syria has dragged on. While the CHP's 2015 election manifesto listed 40 articles for Syria, giving a large space for Syrian refugees, including their well-being and included many aspects on the conditions of Syrian refugees, from education to housing and rent prices to health, in 2018, the chapter on refugees was changed to only seven articles, and much less comprehensive compared to its 2015 version. Several CHP mayors also came under fire for their discriminatory policies against Syrian refugees after they got elected in the March 31 local elections. The invitation of Amy Kristine Holmes from American University in Cairo, who previously declared her support for the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, drew strong reactions from AK Party officials and on social media. AK Party Group Deputy Chairman Bülent Turan called on the CHP to be "more sensitive" on the issues regarding Turkey's national security. "You cannot contribute to peace with inviting groups close to the YPG terrorist group," he said. Underlining that Syria and Turkey share a common history and have strong cultural ties, Kılıçdaroğlu expressed hope for the re-establishment of friendship and good neighborly relations between the two countries.
Kılıçdaroğlu also stressed Turkey's right to fight against terrorist organizations in Syrian territory, "in order to ensure its safety."
"Turkey's struggle against terror beyond its borders is a right guaranteed by international agreements and engagements," said Kılıçdaroğlu, adding that Ankara should continue its counterterrorism efforts with "respect for Syria's territorial integrity and by establishing direct relations with Damascus."
"We should never forget that only the Syria
n people can decide the future of Syria," Kılıçdaroğlu stressed.
Kılıçdaroğlu also reiterated the CHP's proposal in 2018 to establish an "Organization of Middle East Peace and Cooperation." The organization, to be founded by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, would pioneer peace that would spread from the region to the rest of the world, said Kılıçdaroğlu.
The final statement of the meeting suggested finding a solution on the refugee issue within a framework of international law and human rights.
CHP officials previously expressed the necessity that the Syrian people to return to their homeland.