ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that work was underway to construct homes inside Syria for people fleeing the war-torn country’s last rebel-held stronghold.
“In an area 30-40 kilometres deep in Syria close to our border, we have planned to build, not a tent city, but homes, and the construction has begun,” Erdogan said.
“We want our Idlib brothers and sisters to take shelter in winter here,” he told reporters during a press conference in Istanbul.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on January 15 mentioned talks with Russia about a proposed “safe zone” but there has been little detail offered by officials or media.
But Turkish NGO the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) said Thursday that work had started in a bid to build 10,000 homes for displaced residents in a village in the Idlib region five kilometres (three miles) from the Turkish border.
IHH said 450,000 people had fled toward the border in the past five months.
Erdogan said he was frequently talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin about “ensuring the safety of civilians” in Idlib.
He warned Europe last month that Turkey could not handle a new wave of refugees alone since the country already hosts over 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
Syrian regime attacks on southern Idlib have increased since December, leaving more than 358,000 people displaced, according to United Nations figures.
Russian air strikes in the region killed eight civilians Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
This was despite a ceasefire sponsored by Damascus ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey earlier this month intended to halt the violence.