The chairperson of Türkiye’s main opposition party intends to travel to Syria this month to meet with Syrian leader Bashar Assad to “resolve the Syrian refugee crisis” between Türkiye and Syria.

Speaking to a Turkish network on Thursday, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chair Özgür Özel announced he would lead a party delegation on a trip to Damascus through Lebanon later this month, although he didn’t specify a date.

“I will make an incredible effort for Türkiye to resolve this issue with Assad and find European funds. We will do our biggest campaign. We only wish everyone would show the willpower to rid Türkiye of the refugee problem,” said Özel.

The CHP leader’s remarks followed days of unrest across Türkiye that began late Sunday in the central Kayseri province, with attacks on Syrian-owned homes, shops and vehicles, after allegations that a Syrian man had sexually abused the 5-year-old daughter of his relative.

Social media platform X was awash with extremist users calling for the expulsion of Syrian refugees in Türkiye, a sentiment that has been fueled by opposition politicians since last year.

In the following days, the violence spread to the provinces of Hatay, Gaziantep, Konya, Bursa and an Istanbul district, Türkiye’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) said. There were social media reports of some injuries among Syrians.

Subsequently, hundreds of angry Syrians took to the streets in several towns in the opposition-held northwest Syria, an area where Türkiye maintains thousands of troops backing opposition forces and fighting against the PKK/YPG terrorist group.

“We cannot have a repeat of the Kayseri incident,” Özel said.

He claimed the CHP delegation would be traveling to Syria as “a party of Türkiye.”

“I’ve told (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan about this and he welcomed it,” Özel said.

But Özel’s secularist CHP was among other opposition parties like the nationalist Good Party (IP) and far-right ultra-nationalist Victory Party (ZP), who extensively campaigned around sending Syrians back home ahead of last year’s national elections, blaming Syrians for the economic crisis, housing and rent issues.

Türkiye is home to at least 3.6 million Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in 2012, most of whom are under temporary protection status.

Erdoğan advocates for a political solution to the Syrian crisis and the dignified, voluntary return of Syrians.

Earlier this year, Özel said he would make a trip to Palestine to deliver “an important message” to the world and Türkiye amid Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, but the trip never took place.

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