Turkish premier visits camp sheltering Syrians-UPDATED

Turkey's Erdogan told Syrian refugees that victory for the rebels in their country was not far off and President Bashar al-Assad was "losing blood" by the day.

Turkish premier visits camp sheltering Syrians-UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday visited a camp sheltering Syrians who fled violence in their country.  Delivering a speech at the Oncupinar container house site in the southern province of Kilis, Erdogan said the Syrian regime would eventually answer for its cruelties before the Syrian people.      

Erdogan was met with enthusiastic applause and shouts of "Long live Erdogan" at the Kilis refugee camp.

"Bashar is losing blood every day," Erdogan told the crowd of about 1,500 people less than a kilometre from the border.

"Your victory is not far off. We have just one issue: to stop the bloodshed and tears and for the Syrian people's demands to be met."

Erdogan addressed the crowd from the top of a bus while military snipers watched from rooftops. Hundreds of police and soldiers guarded the road from the airport to the camp.

"All dictators have passed away from this world with an indelible black stain they left behind. And those who make our Syrian brothers suffer under cruel oppression will be brought to account before the people of Syria," Erdogan told the crowd.      

Erdogan said Turkey would continue to extend support to the Syrians who fled oppression, "and until you want to return at your own will, you are most welcome here in our country"      

Erdogan said all Syrian camps in Turkey offered their residents health service, schooling, food as well as sports facilities.       Erdogan said Turkey also made intense efforts to have international community's commitment to extend support to the Syrian people.      

"Turkey continues its initiatives in the United Nations, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation. And never forget that you are becoming stronger with each passing day," Erdogan said.

"We maintain our hopes for the implementation of the Annan plan, but the bad news out of Syria is progressively undermining those hopes," Erdogan later told a news conference.

"Simply following the Annan plan will not bring about a resolution ... A reform process that expands freedom within a parliamentary, constitutional system should start immediately."

Erdogan added that the number of refugees arriving in Turkey had declined since the ceasefire took effect.

Hostage Turkish journalists

Two Turkish journalists in Syrian custody since March have contacted their family to say they are in good health, he said.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has been seeking their release with both the Syrian and Iranian governments, he added.

Members of the crowd at the camp called for a buffer zone within Syria, an earlier Turkish proposal to protect civilians that has failed to gain traction.

They also chanted: "We want arms for the Free Syrian Army."

Erdogan has held his former friend Assad personally responsible for the deaths of civilians.

About 9,000 Syrians fleeing violence are sheltering at the camp in Kilis province, comprised of 2,000 container homes. It also has three schools, two mosques and a supermarket.

In a sign the refugees' stay is expected to be a long one, authorities are moving occupants of tent cities at other spots along the 900-km (550-mile) border to the Kilis site, which cost $50 million to build, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Turkey is providing shelter for a total of 23,000 Syrian refugees, Erdogan said. In all, Turkey has spent about $150 million providing for Syrian refugees.

Stray bullets from clashes between the Syrian army and rebels hit the Kilis camp in April, injuring two refugees and two Turkish workers and sparking a furious response from Erdogan who hinted that Turkey, as a NATO member, could invoke Article 5 which calls for an allied defence of its borders.

The attack last month "created an atmosphere of terror in the camp," said Naji Abdul Wahab, a farmer who fled with his wife and children after government forces destroyed their home.

"Erdogan's visit here is a victory for us," Wahab said.

"The standards here are good but we long to go home. For us to return, Assad must go. Then we will go back and build a new home."

"Honored"

Syrian citizens, who have been staying in Turkey after escaping from the violence in their country, were honored with the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the camp in southeastern province of Kilis.      

Nassir Haci Kassim, one of the Syrian in the camp, told AA on Monday that they were honored with Erdogan's visit.      

Kassin said that he had been running a restaurant in Aleppo, but he, together with his family, ran away after violence broke out in his country, and crossed in Turkey by passing a land-mined zone.      

Noting that they had been staying in the camp comfortably, Kassim said that their only problem was their relatives who stayed in Syria. We want peace in Syria, said Kassim, adding that they trusted in Turkey and Erdogan very much.      

Muhammed Naji, who escaped from Idlib city, said that they were in high hopes of peace especially after the visit of Erdogan.      

Emine Muhammed, another Syrian, said that Erdogan's visit was very meaningful, and he gave very good messages.      

Syrians, who escaped from their country, were firstly settled in Hatay city. Then, a container camp was set up for 12,000 people in Kilis. There are 2,100 containers in the camp which is currently hosting 9,633 Syrians. Each container house has its own kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. There are also social facilities, schools, day care centers and mosques in the camp.       Erdogan on Sunday visited the camp in Oncupinar, Kilis.     

Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Mayıs 2012, 13:18

Muhammed Öylek

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