Ankara-Turkey on Tuesday gave the first official sign it has started implementing a plan to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli announced that his country would start building new residential cities in Syrian areas recently liberated from ISIS by the Free Syrian Army forces as part of operation “Euphrates Shield.”
The international community has not allowed Ankara to establish a no-fly buffer zone in north Syria. But, during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Ankara last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the establishment of such a zone requires a decision from the U.N. Security Council and not NATO.
NATO and Washington had objected the idea of a buffer zone in Syria when Ankara made the suggestion last year. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the issue with the Russian and U.S. presidents last week when attending the G20 Summit in China.
Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Ankara’s chances to get the approval of the international community remain higher than before due to Turkey’s ability to eliminate ISIS from areas near its border with northern Syria.
In comments delivered on Tuesday, Canikli said his country is working on providing all the needed services for living in the newly liberated Syrian areas, where Syrians are expected to return soon.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Turkey aims to place the 2.7 million Syrian refugees it hosts, in fully equipped residential areas that Ankara was planning to build.
The Turkish military announced earlier this week that Syrian opposition forces have already taken control of an 845-square-kilometer area of northern Syria as part of operation Euphrates Shield.
The operation was launched last month to clear the Turkey-Syria border of ISIS terrorists, using FSA forces backed by the Turkish army and airforce.
In its statement, the Turkish army said it has raided 516 terrorist targets using 2,223 rockets.
On Tuesday around 1,700 Syrian refugees returned from Turkey to the liberated Syrian city of Jarablus and the surrounding areas north of Aleppo province.
Jarablus was cleared from ISIS as part of operation Euphrates Shield.