Russian FM calls for coordination of "safe zones" in Syria

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the zones would require coordination. US President Donald Trump is in favor. The US-backed SDF says the Trump administration has upped support for its fight against Daesh.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia, January 17, 2017.

The creation of "safe zones" in Syria would require the coordination of the UN and other international organisations, Russia’s foreign minister said on Monday.

Sergey Lavrov was speaking after US President Donald Trump said he would “definitely” create safe zones for civilians in Syria.

“The creation of such zones can be considered with the coordination of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other international organisations," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

He added that the Syrian regime would need to be consulted.

The Syrian war has displaced around 12 million people internally and externally.

Some 3 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey, which is also a key route for migration to Europe.

Ankara has long advocated a safe zone in northern Syria to shelter people fleeing the six-year civil war, a move opposed by the Obama administration.

On the ground in Syria

The Turkish military said on Tuesday it had "neutralized" (killed, wounded or captured) at least 30 Daesh members in northern Syria in the previous 24 hours as part of its Operation Euphrates Shield to secure Turkey's border with Syria.

Turkey's operation supports the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and targets Daesh and the YPG, the armed wing of the PKK Syrian affiliate the PYD.

Turkey, the US and the EU consider the PKK a terrorist organisation, but the US backs the YPG in Syria.

On Tuesday the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, which includes the YPG, said the next phase of its US-backed campaign against Daesh in Syria aims to completely encircle its stronghold of Raqqa, severing the city from areas held by Daesh in Deir al-Zor to the south, a Kurdish military source said. Raqqa is Daesh's de facto capital in Syria.

The SDF also said on Tuesday that the US administration had expanded support for the group since Donald Trump came to office, supplying armoured vehicles for the first time, according to Reuters.

An SDF spokesman said the armoured vehicles and troop carriers had arrived several days ago.

"Previously we didn't get support in this form, we would get light weapons and ammunition," the spokesman said.

TRTWorld and agencies