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Turkey to build refugee camp in Syria’s Idlib

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Syrian refugee boy is seen at a refugee camp in the Syrian town of Azaz, January 26, 2018. (AFP photo)

Turkey says it is building a camp for refugees inside the Syrian territory as it seeks to allay concerns about its devastating campaign against Kurdish militants, which has forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Tuesday that a large camp was being constructed in Idlib province, where Turkey launched a military operation dubbed "Euphrates Shield" in the summer of 2016.

“Red Crescent and Afad have started the work to set up 170,000-people capacity camp in the Idlib and Euphrates Shield region,” said Aksoy.

With around three million people accommodated in its camps, Turkey has been one of the main relocation points for refugees fleeing Syria since war erupted in the Arab country in early 2011. However, Ankara’s increasing involvement in the war has exacerbated the refugee crisis, especially in the north of Syria where Ankara battles Kurds with the aim of pushing them back to the west of the Euphrates.

Turkey launched another military operation dubbed "Olive Branch" in late January to clear the city of Afrin and the surrounding areas from Kurdish militants of the YPG group. Ankara says the YPG, and its umbrella political entity known as the PYD, is an arm of the outlawed Kurdish militants that have been engaged in decades of war on the Turkish government. The Afrin operation has largely failed to reach its objectives while it is strongly opposed by the United States, an ally of the Kurdish forces, and the Syrian government, which views the campaign as a violation of its sovereignty.

The camp being built by Turkey is expected to mostly accommodate refugees now stranded around the city of A’zaz in Syria’s Aleppo province as well as those seeking to enter Turkey from Idlib.  

During the Tuesday briefing with reporters, Aksoy, the Turkish spokesman, reiterated his government’s call on the United States to stop helping Kurdish militants in northern Syria.

“We have clear expectations from the United States. We expect them to take back the arms delivered to PYD-YPG,” he said.

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