By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Turkey has an ambitious plan to settle two million displaced Syrians in a 30 kilometer wide safe zone in northern Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyi Erdogan unveiled the plan at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly last month.
“Our aim is to settle 2 million Syrians, with the support of the international community, by providing a peace corridor of 30 kilometers deep and 480 kilometers long in the first phase,” the president had said.
Erdoğan offered to extend the safe zone to the Deir ez-Zor-Raqqa line and said that by doing so, even 3 million displaced Syrians can be resettled in the planned zone.
“We can take Syrians from tent, container cities and settle them in here, with U.S., coalition powers, Russia and Iran,” he said.
Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.
The settlement area Turkey proposes includes 140 villages and 10 districts. Each village is planned to host 5,000 Syrians while each district will have a population of 30,000, according to Turkish Daily News.
The villages will contain about 1,000 residences, including houses and barns. The houses will be 100-square-meters large. Two mosques, two schools, a youth center, and a closed gym will also be included.
Every household in the villages will also receive agricultural land with respect to the size of the area.
The districts, on the other hand, will have 6,000 residences, a central mosque, as well as 10 mosques for neighborhoods, eight schools, a high school, two closed gyms, five youth centers, a small stadium, a football field, two hospitals, and an industrial estate.
For the planned resettlement areas to actualize, about 92.6 million square meters of land is needed.
Some 140-million square meters are also needed for the agricultural land distribution.
A total of 200,000 residences will be constructed with respect to the plan, which will cost nearly $26.4 billion for the settlement of 1 million displaced Syrians, according to the Turkish Daily News.
Turkey-US agree on safe zone
Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed on Aug. 7 to set up a safe zone in northern Syria and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians who want to return home.
If there is stalling or a delay in the process to set up a safe zone in northern Syria, Turkey is ready to single-handedly take the reins, Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar said Wednesday.
“We made our preparations. When necessary, we can take matters into our own hands,” Hulusi Akar said at an opening ceremony for the fall term of Istanbul’s National Defense University.
“We find it necessary to establish a safe zone, a peace corridor, free of heavy weapons and terrorists along the border some 30-40 kilometers deep into Syria, east of the Euphrates River,” said Akar.
The 30-kilometer wide area includes the settlements of Jarabulus, Manbij, Ayn al-Arab (Kobani), Tal Abyad, Suluk, Ras al-Ayn, Darbasiyah, Amude, Qamishli and al-Malikiyah, the Turkish daily reported.
The settlements — except for Jarabulus, which was cleared of terrorists by Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016-2017 — are currently occupied by Kurdish Militia (YPG) / Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), according to Turkish media.
The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the E.U. and the U.S. YPG is the PKK’s Syrian branch.
The Turkish Daily News said since 2016, Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG/PKK, making it possible for Syrians who fled the violence to return home.
Commenting on the Turkish plan, the Jerusalem Post wrote: If Turkey succeeds it will have created one of the most lavish housing projects in the Middle East, with more modern facilities than people enjoy per capita anywhere else in the region, making northeast Syria one of the wealthiest and most well organized centers of the region. Potentially this will mean most Syrians from all over Syria, a country devastated by war where 500,000 have been killed and millions displaced, will all want to flock to the new housing projects.