Politics & Economics

Details Emerge Regarding Safe Zone in Northern Syria

Syria

Reports in Turkish media suggest that an agreement has been reached between Turkey and the United States with regards to the width of the proposed Safe Zone in northern Syria.

Reports have emerged in Turkish media alleging progress between Turkey and the United States regarding the establishment of a proposed safe zone in northeastern Syria. According to these reports, long hours of discussion have culminated in an agreement to create a safe zone 5 kilometres into Syria, extending to a length of 100 kilometres in the country.

These alleged details come amidst other public statements from US officials, saying that there are still major differences between the two countries with regards to the optimum width of the zone and the mechanics of its administration.

The Turkish reports state that the safe zone will start in Tel Abyad in Raqqa Governorate, which is located in northern Syria on the border with Turkey, and extend eastwards 100 kilometres along the Turkish border to Ras al-Ayn in Hasakah Governorate.

Moreover, it is expected that the area will be managed by local military councils under the direct supervision of the International Coalition forces, which have participated heavily in the fight against ISIS in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. Meanwhile, heavy weaponry would be prohibited from entering within 20 kilometres of the safe zone.

Such an agreement would limit the Turkish role in the administration of the safe zone to joint patrols with the International Coalition forces, as the Turkish army would not be allowed to operate outside of the movements of the International Coalition unless any such agreement is reached in the future.

The return of some of the 3.65 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey is also alluded to in the reports, which stipulate that their return has been agreed upon by the two countries, and that the process of re-integration will be coordinated by the military forces operating in northeastern Syria.

In an attempt to realise its goal of establishing a safe zone more than 30 kilometres wide, Turkey has pursued an aggressive policy of military action in northeastern Syria. Ankara has long sought to push US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from away from areas bordering Turkey, considering them terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. The SDF, however, are allied with the US, and played a key role in defeating ISIS in this part of Syria.

Many individuals affiliated with the SDF and the predominately Kurdish parties in northern Syria have voiced their concerns with the potential safe zone, highlighting the threat of instability that the operations would create, especially with remnant IS cells operating in the area.