Your suffering is ours, Erdogan tells Syrian refugees in Turkey

Türkiye Materials 7 May 2012 03:23 (UTC +04:00)

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited a refugee camp on Sunday in Kilis province hosting Syrians who have fled the violence in their home country, the first by the prime minister to a Syrian refugee camp, Today's Zaman reported.

"Your suffering is ours," Erdoğan said as he addressed hundreds of Syrians in the Kilis refugee camp. Noting that Turkey will continue to do whatever it can to support the people of Syria, Erdoğan once again vowed solidarity with the Syrian people. "Bashar [al-Assad] is losing support with every passing day," Erdoğan said, adding that the opposition, on the other hand, is gaining more support from international circles.

"Your victory is close. ... Never lose hope. ... We are always with you. I also believe that God is with you, too," he continued.

The Öncüpınar container city near the Cilvegözü border gate in Kilis, where 2,100 containers have the capacity to house 12,000 people, currently accommodates around 10,000 Syrian refugees. Hatay, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep provinces each host a container city. Kilis is home to the highest number of Syrian refugees in Turkey, currently 23,343.

Erdoğan previously raised NATO's collective defense principle under Article 5 of the NATO charter regarding a claimed threat to Turkey from Syria, over an incident at a refugee camp in Kilis province. Erdoğan deemed the incident a border violation by Syrian regime forces.

Two Turkish nationals and two Syrians were injured in the incident, which occurred in early April. Syrian forces fired across the border during clashes with opposition fighters, who had reportedly attempted to seize control of the border gate before fleeing to Turkey.

Article 5, known as the collective defense clause, commits NATO states to defend a member state when it comes under attack. Whether or not NATO launches an intervention will be the sole decision of the treaty partners, who will assess the severity of the perceived threat.

A truce brokered by joint UN and Arab League Syria envoy Kofi Annan has been proved to be shaky as army shelling continues in the restive Syrian towns of Hama, Homs, Idlib and Deir Ez-Zor, while Damascus and Aleppo, which have stayed out of the revolt, have become increasingly restive in the recent weeks.

On Sunday, a bomb exploded at a car wash in Aleppo killing at least five people, international media outlets reported. The explosion came two days after a violent raid at Aleppo University that killed four students.

The Syrian regime's crackdown on dissent is continuing. According to UN estimates, it claimed the lives of around 9,000 Syrians in the first year of the conflict, which began last March.

Meanwhile, elections for the Syrian National Council are set to begin on Monday, having been promised by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad three months ago. Exiled members of the Syrian opposition are urging voters to boycott the elections, which are seen as a cynical effort by the regime to deceive the international community while it continues with the killings.