HATAY, Turkey

The Assad regime and its international supporters are not working to find a diplomatic and political solution in Syria, said the EU’s top representative in Turkey on Thursday.

Visiting Hatay – in southern Turkey, bordering Syria – Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, said the Syrian civil war had dragged on for 10 years now because of the brutal pressure the Assad regime puts on its people.

“Both Turkey and the EU are making efforts to find a diplomatic solution to this conflict. This effort aims to solve the underlying cause of the problem. If we can find such a solution, then those who have been forced to flee their country can return honorably, safely, and voluntarily,” said Meyer-Landrut.

“Unfortunately, neither the regime nor the regime’s international supporters are making any serious efforts to find a diplomatic and political solution. For this reason, unfortunately, we need to act, thinking that the current situation will continue for some time,” he added.

Turkey’s ‘tremendous efforts for refugees’

This week the Turkish-EU 2016 migrant agreement marked its fifth birthday, said Meyer-Landrut, adding that the agreement saves lives, with far fewer people making dangerous sea journeys from Turkey since the pact was reached.

He also congratulated the Turkish government, interested parties, and the municipality of Hatay for “their tremendous efforts for refugees” in Turkey – which hosts some 4 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world.

Saying that the EU is working to support meeting Syrian refugees’ basic needs, health, education, vocational education, and municipal infrastructure, Meyer-Landrut added: “I know that the main burden is on you, but I hope that we will contribute to your work with these projects.”

During the visit, Hatay Mayor Lutfu Savas also briefed the EU delegation about the Syrians in the Hatay border province.

After meeting with Hatay Governor Rahmi Dogan, Meyer-Landrut attended a meeting with district mayors and businesspeople at the Antakya Chamber of Commerce.

Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

*Writing by Merve Berker

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