Turkey had "fruitful" talks with officials from the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Geneva over the voluntary repatriation of refugees to Syria, said a Turkish official on Monday.
"This situation [the overwhelming number of refugees in Turkey] is not sustainable anymore. So, we met today as two delegations, as two teams. We addressed these problems in a long and fruitful discussion," Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran told Anadolu Agency about the meeting. Kıran said Turkey wants to host the second meeting.
On the Global Refugee Forum to be held in Geneva on Dec. 17-18, he said Turkey views the event as an important step to prevent the delay of planned international donors' forum over the voluntary return of Syrians.
"We want to move fast," Kıran added.
According to Interior Ministry figures, the number of refugees in Turkey was 4.2 million in 2017 and has now reached 4.9 million. While 3.6 million Syrians are living in Turkey, more than 415,000 Syrians have been born in Turkey since the start of the civil war in 2011. Ankara has spent nearly $40 billion so far, while it has only received about 6 billion euros ($6.6 million) of support from the international community.
"Inflicting the burden of the refugees only on a few countries is not a sustainable, endurable and tolerable situation," he stated. Turkey has taken exemplary steps and made great efforts over the issue, the official stressed.
"The legitimacy and necessity of the return of the refugees are not questionable anymore," Kiran stressed.
Sharing a 911-kilometer border with its southern neighbor, Turkey has repeatedly proposed establishing a safe zone in northern Syria to stop further refugee influxes into its own territory and into Europe. Turkey has also proposed relocating Syrians living in migrant camps by providing conditions allowing them to return to Syria.
Stating that the plans and projects for the return of Syrian refugees are prepared, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that "We will hold an international donors meeting or will take the steps for model projects."
Speaking in Ankara, the president added that 8,100 square kilometers in Syria have been secured so far with the three military operations, "where the threat of terrorism to Turkey was intense."
"We have created the basis for the return of Syrians in our country with the areas we have secured. So far, 365,000 Syrians have returned," Erdoğan stressed. He also indicated that harassment fire by the terrorists was killing Turkish citizens and soldiers.