Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that “safe zones” will automatically emerge in northern Syria and Iraq after ISIS has been eliminated by Turkey and its allies in the respective regions.
Cavusoglu has stated that discussions with the US government concerning the fight against ISIS have reached a point where US-Turkish cooperation attained a tangible framework.
“We have made a framework agreement in order to fight against ISIS effectively,” he said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also declared “Turkey and the US have decided to further deepen their ongoing cooperation in the fight against DEASH [ISIS],“ in a statement published on its website on July 24.
Cavusoglu said that Turkey has consistently defended a plan to establish safe areas and no-fly-zones in Syria. The foreign minister indicated that refugees who stay in Turkey and neighbouring countries could be settled in the “safe” areas which will be cleared from ISIS by Turkey and US-led coalition forces following effective operations against the group.
“The ‘safe zones’ will be the areas cleared from ISIS,” he added.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News has claimed that the safe zones Cavusoglu speaks about are referred to by government sources as “ISIS-free zones.” The sources have preferred to use this new term because of the Washington’s existing objections to “safe” or “security” zones, the newspaper reported.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces will be deployed in the areas cleared from ISIS by the coalition forces, which will also serve to keep the expansion of Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in check, according to the plan agreed by Turkey and US, the newspaper claimed.
ISIS is already controlling a zone from Jarablus to Marea along the Turkish border which is also laid out between the two PYD-controlled Kurdish “cantons” Kobani and Afrin.
US officials have previously declared that Turkey reached a comprehensive agreement with the American government to allow its Incirlik NATO base located 100 km (60 miles) from the northwest Syrian border and Turkish airfield to be used by the US-led coalition military forces for airstrikes against ISIS, in order to execute a joint action plan for northern Syrian issues.
The Incirlik air base is located in the southern Turkish province of Adana and has been used by US and NATO forces for various conflicts since 1958.
American media reported that the Incirlik deal was sealed in a telephone conversation between US President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, according to a senior US administration official.
A high-ranking American official described the agreement as a “game changer,” the New York Times reported.
Turkish media also reported that a critical cabinet meeting on July 22 had discussed recent incidents connected to militant attacks in Turkey, as well as border security, before making a decision to approve the deal.
However, Cavusoglu said the Incirlik deal has not become effective yet, and that Turkey and the US will make a joint decision on which bases in Turkey will be opened for use by coalition forces to execute attacks against ISIS. “In other words, we will make a decision together with US administration on which countries will use these bases and deploy its forces there,” he added.
US officials said coalition warplanes and armed drones could move more quickly and efficiently against the militant groups in their northern Syrian strongholds following the agreement because of the proximity of the base to the targeted region, the Washington Post reported.
Turkish media previously indicated that the coalition forces will coordinate the use of the Incirlik base with Turkish Air Forces and “when needed,” the Turkish jets might also participate in the missions carrying out against ISIS.
Turkey has already begun an air bombardment against ISIS after the group attacked Turkish troops, killing one Turkish soldier in the southern district of Elbeyli in the Kilis province near the Syrian border.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement on July 24 saying that, “Our jets have targeted certain DEASH [ISIS] elements in Syria, based on our right of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.”
“These operations are carried out in accordance with international law. As such, the necessary notification has been communicated to the United Nations Security Council,” the statement added.