Turkey renews calls for safe zone in Syria

Turkey renews calls for safe zone in Syria
3 min read
17 February, 2016
Turkey has renewed calls to establish a safe zone in Syria, and stressed its readiness to participate in military operations in country along with allies.
Turkey has renewed calls for a safe zone in Syria [Getty]
Turkey said on Wednesday it was seeking to create a "safe line" inside Syria that would include the flashpoint northern town of Azaz near the Turkish border.

"We want to form a 10-kilometre (six-mile) safe line inside Syria, including Azaz," Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan told A Haber TV in an interview.

The call follows comments which confirm that Turkey is willing to engage in a multilateral military operation in Syria.

"We want a ground operation with our international allies," a senior Turkish official told reporters in Istanbul.

"There is not going to be a unilateral military operation from Turkey to Syria," the official emphasised, but added: "Without a ground operation it is impossible to stop the fighting in Syria."

Turkey has long pressed for a safe zone, backed up by a no-fly zone, to protect its borders and provide protection for refugees on Syrian soil, although has not elaborated on the dimensions of the proposed zone or how it could be created.

Erdogan has announced the 60 mile long Azaz-Jarabulus line as the "red line" for Ankara and warned they would target any armed faction who tried to cross it.

Alarmed by the advances of Syrian Kurdish forces in Aleppo province near the border, Ankara has in recent days bombed their positions, defying international calls for a halt to the strikes.

Turkey accuses Kurdish fighters from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria of links to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

The fate of Azaz is of particular concern to Turkey, with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu making clear Ankara will not allow Kurdish fighters to take it from anti-regime rebels.

The consolidation of PYD and regime control of border areas of Turkey could also cut off supply routes to rebels in Idlib and Aleppo, spelling disaster for what is known as the heartland of the revolution.

While regime forces have made significant advances in Aleppo with backing from Russian air strikes, the PYD's advancement was also said to be aided by Russia.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused Kurdish fighters in Syria of being "Russia's legion working as mercenaries" and harming Turkey's interests.

"Those vile, cruel and barbaric planes have made close to 8,000 sorties since September 30 without any discrimination between civilians and soldiers, or children and the elderly," he said.

On Tuesday, Turkey shelled Kurdish positions in northern Syria for a fourth straight day, monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Turkey has set up several camps inside Syria near Azaz to house Syrians fleeing the regime's strikes.

Agencies contributed to this report