Trump says he will 'absolutely' establish safe zones in Syria

Some Republican lawmakers have advocated the creation of such zones in the past especially to protect civilians fleeing the conflict against attacks by forces loyal to Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US President Donald Trump hands Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (R) an executive order that directs agencies to ease the burden of Obamacare, after signing it in the Oval Office in Washington, US, January 20, 2017 in this file photo.

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he "will absolutely do safe zones in Syria" to protect people fleeing violence there.

Saying Europe had made a tremendous mistake by admitting millions of refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern trouble spots, Trump told ABC News in an interview: "I don't want that to happen here."

A draft executive order to this effect is awaiting Trump's signature, according to a report by Reuters. The move may indicate the new administration was preparing a step that Trump's predecessor Barack Obama long resisted.

"The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defence, is directed within 90 days of the date of this order to produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement," the draft order said.

Trump is expected to order the Pentagon and US State Department to submit a plan for setting up "safe zones" for refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries in the upcoming days.

The Turkish government had long pressed Obama for the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria on its border with Turkey. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had also called on the Obama administration numerous times for the establishment of safe zones inside Syria.

Creation of safe zones would mark a significant departure from Obama's approach. If Trump decided to enforce "no fly" restrictions over such areas, it would require increased US or allied air power. It could also demand some type of ground forces to provide security.

The document gave no details on what would constitute a safe zone, exactly where they might be set up and who would defend them. Jordan, Turkey and other neighbouring countries already host millions of Syrian refugees.

During the presidential campaign, Trump had called for no-fly zones to harbour refugees as an alternative to allowing them into the United States. 

TRTWorld and agencies