Turkish presidential hopeful says millions of Syrian refugees could be deported and relations with Assad regime restored if elected

Turkish presidential hopeful says millions of Syrian refugees could be deported and relations with Assad regime restored if elected
Leader of Turkey's Republican People’s Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu has said that if he wins next year's presidential election, he will return millions of Syrian refugees and restore diplomatic relations with the Syrian regime.
3 min read
22 February, 2022
Kilicdaroglu is currently polling behind Erdogan [Getty]

Turkish opposition leader and presidential hopeful Kemal Kilicdaroglu said he will return millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey back to Syria and reestablish ties with the Assad regime if he is elected president of Turkey. 

The leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP) has said this would depend on assurances from Assad  that returnees would not be harmed, but human rights groups widely consider Syria unsafe for refugees due to the threat of disappearances and violence.

"If needed the United Nations needs to get involved, a 100% guarantee should be received from Assad," Kilicdaroglu told Reuters

"That guarantee needs to be tied to international accords, that he will not attack them, that their material and life security will be preserved," he added.

Turkey hosts over 3.7 millions registered Syrian refugees, many of whom have fled from Syrian regime oppression and violence including barrel bombing, gas attacks, and massacres.

Numerous reports have documented cases of Syrian refugees returning to their homeland before disappearing into the brutal Syrian regime prison system, where tens of thousands of detainees are believed to have been killed.

Others have been forced into the Syrian army where conditions are dire and human rights abuses abound. 

Economic conditions in Syria also remain terrible with the risk of starvation and extreme poverty.

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Kilicdaroglu claimed that if he were to win the election he would restore diplomatic ties with the Assad regime.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly opposed the Assad regime and Turkey has supported rebel groups who control large areas of northern Syria. Turkey also hosts elements of the Turkish opposition.

Kilicdaroglu gave no indication in his interview whether Turkish support for these Syrian armed groups would end if he wins the presidency. 

Turkey is set to head to the polls and elect a new president in 2023, and Kilicdaroglu is currently in talks to stand as the candidate of a six-party alliance.

Polling by Metropoll has Kilicdaroglu standing with approval ratings of just 28.5 percent, behind other more popular members of his CHP party, and behind the incumbent Erdogan. 

In addition to announced a return of Syrian refugees and the restoration of diplomatic ties with Assad, Kilicdaroglu also threw into doubt the existence of Turkey’s S-400 missile defence system.

The purchase of the Russian system put considerable strain on relations with the US.

"Who will we use the S-400s for? We haven't received the answer to this question yet," asked Kilicdaroglu. 

"A large amount of money was paid, and they are currently waiting in storage," he added. 

Erdogan has said that they will not sell the Russian-made missile system.