By Muhammed Boztepe
ANKARA (AA) - Establishment of a safe zone in war-torn Syria accelerated voluntary returns of Syrian refugees, who took refuge in Turkey, Turkish interior minister said on Thursday.
“A total of 354,000 Syrians have voluntarily returned to their homes till date thanks to the secure environment Turkey created by the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch anti-terror operations,” Suleyman Soylu said at a conference on international security in the capital Ankara.
Turkey is trying to guarantee peace in Syria by holding consultations and dialogue with its interlocutors, Soylu stressed.
On Aug. 7, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed 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. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center.
The agreement also envisaged setting up necessary security measures to address Turkey's security concerns -- including clearing the zone of the terrorist YPG/PKK, a group the U.S. has sometimes been allied with.
“As of today, Turkey carried out a total of 90,513 operations against PKK in 2019, while this number was 60,733 in all of 2017,” Soylu added.
The number of PKK terrorists within the borders of Turkey has fallen below 600, Soylu said during a meeting with veterans and their families in Ankara.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.