Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag said on Wednesday the international community had failed the test of sharing the burdens and responsibility with regards to the Syrian crisis.
Speaking on the second day of the Brussels Conference on "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region", Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag said: “Indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, forced displacement, use of chemical weapons and the attacks of terrorist organizations on civilians have caused the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II."
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, according to the UN.
Akdag said: “The effects of the crisis transcend beyond the borders of Syria.”
He also added that Turkey hosts more than 3.5 million registered Syrians, "without any discrimination in terms of their ethnicity or beliefs".
“Free access to medical care, education and shelter have been extended to our Syrian guests,” he said, adding that over 300,000 Syrian babies were born on Turkish soil since the beginning of the conflict.
“Work permits have been provided for nearly 20,000 Syrians. Also, nearly 13,000 Syrian businesses have been launched in Turkey,” Akdag said, adding that the figures show that Turkey continues to “shoulder” the humanitarian burden of the crisis.
“Our expenditures for the needs of Syrians in a wide range of services have reached to €31 billion [ $37.7 billion],” Akdag said.
EU needs to fulfill its responsibilities
During his speech, Akdag said: “Turkey played a major role in solving one of the biggest crises the EU faced in its history.”
He added that the March 18 agreement continued to generate a deterrent effect over new flows of migration.
The agreement allows for the return of “irregular migrants” to Turkey from Greece in exchange for Syrian refugees to be relocated within the EU.
“Since October 2015, the daily average of irregular crossings in the Aegean Sea have decreased from 7,000 to less than 50. Should Turkey put aside her outstanding efforts, the Aegean Sea would become an irregular migration route once again,” Akdag warned.
“We also expect the EU at least to fulfill her commitments emanating from the March 18 Agreement.”
He recalled that the EU has yet to complete “crucial elements of the agreement, such as the visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme (VHAS) and financial assistance”.
Recep Akdag noted that Turkey’s ongoing operation in northwestern Afrin, Syria speeded up humanitarian efforts in the region.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorist groups from Afrin in northwestern Syria amid growing threats from the region.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.
‘Turkey fights against terrorism without harming civilians’
Akdag stressed that Syrian people were still targets of bombs and chemical weapons.
“On April 7, the world witnessed another chemical weapons attack, this time in Douma,” he added, referring to the most recent attack of the Syrian regime.
The Damascus suburb of Douma was hit by a suspected chemical attack, which left at least 78 civilians dead, according to Syrian civil defense White Helmets.
“The international community has to take measures to deter all attacks against civilians. The only way to achieve that and bring an end to the humanitarian crisis is a lasting political solution,” he said.
The deputy premier noted that Turkey wanted to see a stable, democratic Syria, of which the territorial integrity is assured, and with which Turkey shares a 911 kilometer-long (566-mile) border.
“Thanks to the Operation Euphrates Shield and the Operation Olive Branch, we cleared a total of 4,000 square kilometers of land from Daesh and PYD/YPG terrorists,” Akdag said, mentioning Ankara's earlier operation that was conducted from August 2016 to late March 2017 in order to support coalition forces and eliminate terror threats along the Turkish border.
He added that more than 160,000 Syrians had returned to the Operation Euphrates Shield area from Turkey.
“Displaced under the pressure of PYD/YPG, the people of Afrin are now returning back to their homes,” he added.
Akdag said the world should not let the history repeat itself in Syria for another year.