Turkey seeks 10 km deep security zone inside northern Syria

Deputy Prime Minister signals Turkey seeks to establish 10 km deep security zone inside northern Syria, including crucial Azaz District of Aleppo Province, which is under heavy attack by regime forces backed by Russian air strikes

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Internally displaced Syrians wait near the Bab al Salam crossing, across from Turkey's Kilis province, on the outskirts of the northern border town of Azaz, Syria on Feb. 6, 2016.

Turkey wants a secure strip of territory, 10 km (6.2 miles) deep, on the Syrian side of its border, including the town of Azaz, to prevent attempts to "change the demographic structure" of the area, Deputy Prime Minister, Yalcin Akdogan, said on Wednesday.

Syrian regime, backed by Russian air strikes, have advanced towards the Turkish border in a major offensive in recent weeks. The PYD-allied armed forces, considered to be hostile to its security by Ankara, have taken advantage of the violence to seize territory from Syrian opposition groups.

Turkey has accused YPG, the militant wing of the PYD, as pursuing "demographic change" in northern Syria by forcibly displacing Turkmen and Arab communities.

The PYD is considered, by Turkey, the Syrian extension of the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU, and US.

The Turkish government has been alarmed by both DAESH moves near the Syrian towns of Azaz and Marea and the enlargement of the northern enclaves under the control of the PYD along its long border with Syria. 

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, previously declared that Turkey will never allow the establishment of a state in northern Syria or southern Turkey, where there is a large Kurdish population, no matter what it costs for the country.

"There is a game being played with the aim of changing the demographic structure. Turkey should not be part of this game," Akdogan said in an interview on the Turkish A Haber television station.

Opposition stronghold

"What we want is to create a secure strip, including Azaz, 10 km deep inside Syria and this zone should be free from clashes," he said.

Azaz is the last opposition stronghold, before the border with Turkey, north of the Syrian province of Aleppo, part of what was -before the Syrian regime offensive- a supply route from Turkey to the opposition forces fighting against the Assad regime.

It has come under heavy assault by Syrian regime and its allies reinforced by Russian air strikes in recent days, but Turkey has said it will not let the town fall into the hands of the YPG.

Turkey, home to nearly 2.7 million Syrian refugees, has long pushed for the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria to protect displaced civilians, avoiding the need to bring them into Turkey.

Meanwhile on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said that she favoured establishing some sort of no-fly zone in Syria to protect an area where refugees could be safe from attack.

"In the current situation, it would be helpful if there was an area there in which none of the warring parties carry out attacks by air - so a type of no-fly zone," she told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper in response to a question.

"No decision about any no-fly zones can be made without the agreement of the host country [Syria] and the relevant decision of the UN Security Council," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Wednesday in response to a question on Germany's suggestion of establishing a no-fly zone over Syria.

Akdogan also pointed out that another 600,000 people could flee to the Turkish border if Aleppo falls to the Syrian regime forces. 

Turkey has already hosted the largest refugee population in the world according to the UN records.

TRTWorld, Reuters