In his drive for "normalization" of his regime, Syran dictator Bashar Assad has been welcoming meetings with regional leaders in recent months. However, in comments to a reporter last week, he set a withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Syria as a precondition for any meeting with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "Erdogan's objective in meeting me is to legitimize the Turkish occupation in Syria," Assad said. Turkey's Defense Minister Yasar Guler responded days later by saying: "It is unthinkable for us to withdraw without ensuring the security of our borders and our people."
The Security Council has failed to renew the resolution allowing the UN to deliver aid across the border from Turkey to northwest Syria, throwing into question the future of a relief effort that is crucial for millions of people. The resolution, which has allowed the UN cross into rebel-held territories without the permission of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, expired on July 10. The following day, Russia vetoed a new resolution that would have allowed access through one border crossing into the region, Bab al-Hawa, for nine months.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dropped his opposition to Sweden's entry into NATO, it was announced just ahead of the opening of the military alliance summit in Vilnius July 11. US President Joe Biden thanked Erdogan for his "courage" in clearing the way for Stockholm's bid. In an apparent quid pro quo, the State Department said the administration is dropping its objections to Turkey purchasing F-16 fighter jets from the US. Congress opposed sales of the jets to Turkey after Ankara bought Russian S-400 missile systems in 2017.
Donors and diplomats met for a seventh straight year in Brussels this week to raise money for Syria's ongoing humanitarian crisis. They pledged a total of 5.6 billion euros ($6.1 billion) for "2023 and beyond," including 4.6 billion euros ($1 billion) for this year. The money will be used to support people both inside Syria and in neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees. Aid groups have said the amount isn't enough given growing needs within Syria and for Syrian refugees, many of whom face increasing pressure to return to a country still at war. The UN has so far received 11.6% of the $5.41 billion it says it needs for aid to Syrians in 2023, and that doesn't include assistance for refugees. Low funding levels have led to cuts in various forms of aid, including food rations in a place where millions are struggling to get by.
The United Nations released the Global Trend Report 2022 June 14, on refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced and stateless people worldwide. It finds that the number of forcibly displaced people stands at 108.4 million, with 29.4 million falling under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Both figures are at an historic high. The increase in forcible displacement within one year is also the largest since UNHCR started tracking these statistics in 1975. In light of the continuing significant increase, the report says forcible displacement likely exceeds 110 million as of May 2023.
The UN migration agency reported June 13 that 2022 was the deadliest year yet for migrants crossing from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) into Europe. According to the report from the International Organization for Migration's Missing Migrants Project, a record number of 3,800 people died along these migratory routes last year. The report underscored the urgent need for action to improve the safety and protection of migrants. The data, though recognized as undercounted due to the challenges in collecting information, sheds light on the magnitude of the problem. The recorded deaths in 2022 represent an 11% increase from the previous year.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) joined with 20 other human rights organizations to issue a joint statement May 11 protesting Lebanon's summary deportation of Syrian refugees. The rights organizations say the deportations violate the international law principle of non-refoulement, which protects individuals from being returned to a country where they may face torture, cruel or degrading treatment, or other irreparable harm. "The Lebanese Armed Forces have recently...summarily deported hundreds of Syrians back to Syria, where they are at risk of persecution or torture," the statement charges. "The deportations come amid an alarming surge in anti-refugee rhetoric in Lebanon and...coercive measures intended to pressure refugees to return." (Jurist, SNHR)
Turkish border guards are indiscriminately shooting at Syrian civilians on the border with Syria, as well as using excessive force and even torture against asylum-seekers and migrants trying to cross into Turkey, Human Rights Watch said in a report April 27. The report cited hundreds of deaths along the border in recent years, with several killings and abuses this year. Since the beginning of 2023, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has recorded 11 deaths and 20 injuries along the frontier caused by Turkish border guards. Human Rights Watch independently documented and verified two such incidents.