Syrian politicians hold talks with Turkey's main opposition
Syrian activists and politicians in Turkey have held talks with the country's main opposition party in a bid to reduce anti-refugee rhetoric.
Syrian activists and representatives of the Left Party, Ahrar - the Syrian Liberal Party, and the People’s Party discussed rising anti-Syrian sentiments in Turkish politics on Sunday with the Republican People's Party (CHP).
The CHP has called for the repatriation of Syrian refugees from Turkey and has reportedly been courted by Bashar Al-Assad regime recently, but offered talks with activists and politicians from the community in a bid to cool tensions.
Bassam Al-Kuwatli, a member of Ahrar's leadership who took part in the talks, said the key CHP figures - which included party president Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu - said party officials agreed that refugees should only be asked to return to Syria once it is safe for them to do so.
"Kılıçdaroğlu stated that he has no problem with the Syrian presence in Turkey, but only with how it is managed," Al-Kuwatli told The New Arab.
"This includes issues such as having Syrians concentrated in certain geographical areas or not issuing enough work visas, so they end up being working below minimum wage and therefore taking jobs from poor Turks."
Turkey hosts at least 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any country in the world.
While Ankara has been praised for giving refuge to millions of Syrians fleeing the war there, some Turkish politicians have used rising anti-immigration sentiments to boost their profiles and support.
This includes some figures from the centre-left CHP.
The anti-Syrian rhetoric by politicians has been blamed for a string of attacks on refugees in Turkey.
Al-Kuwatli said that after the CHP’s successes in municipal elections, the party is looking to calm frictions with refugee communities in Turkey and show their commitment to good local governance.
"It seems that the party after taking some major cities in local elections does not want social unrest to break out in its municipalities and does not see the value of using this [anti-migrant] rhetoric," said Al-Kuwatli.
"The objective is to have meetings with other parties and maybe have them on the same table to agree on the main principles."
The result of the meeting with the CHP figures was that the party agreed not to campaign for the return of Syrian refugees "until their lives and properties can be protected and there is reconstruction in Syria".
Human rights groups have ruled that despite a decrease in fighting in Syria, the country is still not safe for refugees. Many Syrians are believed to have been "disappeared" by the regime on their return to Syria, including renowned activist Mazen Al-Hamada.
The US and EU have said they will not commit to reconstruction in Syria under the current regime in Damascus.
The CHP also denied reports that it had received an invitation from Bashar Al-Assad for talks on the return of Syrian refugees.
The move was deemed to be an attempt to add pressure on Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been opposed to the Syrian regime throughout the war.