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Damascus slams Turkey’s decision to open more public services in northern Syria

Syrians students that were displaced from their homes during the seven-year war, sit at a makeshift school on the first day of classes at a camp in the town of Atme near the border with Turkey, in the rebel held Idlib province on September 5, 2018. AFP

The Syrian government has criticized Turkey’s decision to open schools and a medical faculty in northern Syria, accusing Ankara of violating international law, Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Monday.

According to the pro-government Daily Sabah, Turkey’s Kilis Provincial Directorate opened the northern town of Azas’s first archery school on Monday. Fifteen youngsters enrolled on the first day.

Turkey is planning to open more branches of the school in other Syrian towns, local authorities told the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Ankara also published in the Official Gazette on Friday night a separate decision to open a healthcare vocational school and a medical faculty in Al-Ra’i (Cobanbey), Syria, near the Turkish border.

The faculty will operate under the auspices of the Health Sciences University, affiliated with Turkey’s Harran University. It provides education in Turkish, Arabic and English.

Located in Aleppo Governorate, Al-Ra’i is a predominantly Turkmen town controlled by the Syrian opposition, where the Turkish lira is also widely used.

Turkey has been building hospital university faculties in Syria since 2018 in Afrin, Al-Bab and Idlib. The Turkish government claims these faculties encourage the return of Syrian refugees.

The Turkish Health Ministry has been operating three hospitals in Al-Bab, Marea and Cobanbey with a total bed capacity of 475.

Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) opened a primary school in Idlib in 2020.

Ankara has been opening public services since its military invasion of northern Syria, following the Olive Branch (2018), Peace Spring (2019) and Spring Shield (2020) operations.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey of “igniting and prolonging the crisis” in the war-torn country, SANA reported.

Ankara claims it “liberated” the region from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), an insurgent group that Turkey sees as an  extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Waging a three-decade-long war against the Turkish state in the Southeast, the PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the United States and the EU.

On the other hand, the Syrian foreign ministry accused Erdoğan of supporting “terrorist groups such as Daesh [ISIL] and Jabhat al-Nusra to serve his personal agenda.”

Turkey has been part of the Syrian civil war since early 2011, providing support to the Syrian opposition fighting to topple Bashar al Assad.

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