Assad's backers and opponents react to Syria 'safe zone'

Assad's backers and opponents react to Syria 'safe zone'
Russia has warned the US to "thoroughly consider" a safe zone in Syria while Turkey and Qatar have given Trump's plan, which Ankara previously touted, a cautious welcome.
2 min read
26 January, 2017
Donald Trump is to order plans for a safe zone in Syria [AFP]

US President Donald Trump's order to establish "safe zones" in Syria has been met with mixed reactions from backers and opponents of the Syrian regime.

Assad backer Russia said on Thursday that the plan, which could put the US into direct conflict with the Syrian regime and Russia, should be thoroughly considered.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said it was important to "weigh all possible consequences" of the measure.

The US had not consulted with Russia on the subject, Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters, adding "it's important not to exacerbate the situation with refugees".

Trump is to order the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plan to provide a haven for civilians in the war-torn country and its neighbours.

Meanwhile a Turkish official says his country has always supported the idea of safe zones in Syria but would need to review any US plans before commenting.

"What is important is to see the result of these studies," Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu told reporters.

He pointed to the Syrian city of Jarablus, where thousands of Syrians have returned after Turkish-backed opposition forces drove out the Islamic State group, as a good example of what can be achieved.

Qatar, a backer of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, also welcomed the plans.

Qatar's foreign ministry director of information, Ahmed al-Rumaihi, said in a statement that Qatar "emphasised the need to provide safe havens in Syria and to impose no-fly zones to ensure the safety of civilians".

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the European Union "will consider plans when they come".

Speaking at a press conference in Beirut, Mogherini said the EU wants to see a political solution and a political transition in Syria that would allow "every single Syrian" to return to their country.

She said: "We need to turn this from a proxy war to a proxy peace, and our role is to facilitate."

The document does not specify what constitutes a "safe zone", where these zones will be located or how they will be defended against attack by the Syrian regime or the Islamic State group, if located within Syria.

Syria's neighbours, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan already host the bulk of the Syrian refugee population.

Safe zones, proposed by both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton during the election campaign, were ruled out by the Obama administration.

In October, the Russian military specifically warned the US against striking Syrian government forces, saying its air defence weapons in Syria would fend off any attack.