US avoids using ‘safe zone’ term regarding northern Syria

US State Department spokesperson avoids using term ‘safe zone’ until discussions over anti-ISIS campaign in northern Syria come to conclusion between Turkey and US

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner held a press statement in Washington

The US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said on Wednesday, that they do not characterize efforts to clear ISIS from the northern Syrian border as an agreement to create “a safe haven or an anti-ISIS zone.”

Asked about the statement made by Turkey’s foreign ministry undersecretary, Feridun Sinirlioglu, Toner said  “we’ve been very careful about not to put monikers or descriptive adjectives on how – describing what this area’s going to look like, except to say we’re – our effort is focused on driving ISIL out of the region.”

On Tuesday, Sinirlioglu stated that Turkey and the United States had reached an agreement on the terms for the zone, including a specific 98 km by 45 km area to be controlled by the Free Syrian Army.

"The control and protection of this region cleared of ISIS will be conducted by Syrian opposition forces and the necessary air defence and support for this will be provided by the United States and Turkey,” Sinirlioglu said.

Toner stated that Turkey and the US so far had only agreed on using Turkish facilities, mainly the Incirlik Air Base, to enhance the air operations against ISIS.

“And then beyond that, we remain in discussion with Turkey about – and that includes evaluating options on how to – on more effective means to counter ISIL in the region,” he continued.

Emphasising that he is not denying Sinirlioglu’s statement, Toner said “I’m not going to characterize it as a safe haven or an anti-ISIL zone.”

Turkey and the US have agreed to deepen their co-operation in the fight against ISIS. Within the scope of the agreement, Turkey has given permission to the US for using the Incirlik Air Base, located 100 km from the border with Syria.

Meanwhile, Turkey has consistently advocated for a plan to establish safe areas and no-fly-zones in Syria.

On July 26, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that “safe zones” would automatically emerge in northern Syria and Iraq after the self-proclaimed ISIS had been eliminated by Turkey and the US forces in the respective regions.

Cavusoglu also indicated that the refugees in Turkey and Syria's other neighbouring countries could be resettled in the proposed "safe" zones cleared of ISIS militants.

As part of the plan, Free Syrian Army forces will be deployed in the areas cleared of ISIS by the coalition forces, which will also serve to keep the expansion of the PYD in check, according to an August 3 Wall Street Journal article.

However, Turkey's Anadolu Agency reported that the US government has denied American media reports of an agreement between Washington and Ankara to keep YPG forces out of the ISIS-free zone in northern Syria, citing an anonymous senior US administration official.


TRTWorld and agencies