Erdoğan calls for Syrian oil to be used for return of refugees

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said Syrian oil reserves, many of which are under Kurdish and U.S. control, could be used to fund projects for the return of Syrian refugees, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The United States is bolstering its presence in the oil-rich region after U.S. President Donald Trump reversed a previous decision to fully withdraw from Syria in October. Washington said U.S. troops would instead guard the oil resources to prevent any resurgent ISIS forces from capturing them and to allow Syrian Kurdish forces to extract and monetise them.

The U.S. withdrawal prompted Turkey's incursion in northeast Syria, targeting the People's Democratic Units (YPG) and its affiliates, which Ankara sees as terrorists due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Ankara took control of an area between two border towns of Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad during the operation, and aims to create what it calls a safe zone to resettle Syrian asylum seekers, over 3.6 million of whom are currently residing in Turkey.

Erdoğan earlier said at least 1 million of the 3.6 million Syrians in Turkey could stay in the safe zone, and that his government would build houses with gardens for them free of charge.

"I'm calling out, saying let's extract the oil from those oil wells together, then implement projects in that terror region and place these people who are currently refugees back in their homes, schools and hospitals. But they don't agree. Because they need more oil," Erdoğan said during the first-ever Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.

Erdoğan called the safe zone established by Turkey along its border the most peaceful place in the country despite attacks by YPG militias, adding that the EU had not kept its word regarding the refugee deal and remained silent about Turkey's plans to resettle Syrian refugees in the area.
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