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‘Safe Zone’ on Agenda of NATO Chief’s Visit to Turkey | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish Army tanks and military personal are stationed in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep Province, Turkey, August 25, 2016./Reuters

Ankara–NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will begin a two-day visit to Turkey on Thursday. He will meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Defense Minister Fikri Isik and other high-ranking officials.

A diplomatic source told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Stoltenberg is expected to discuss the latest developments in Syria as well as Turkey’s demand for a no-fly zone over the north of Syria, the areas which the Free Syrian Army managed to liberate from ISIS control.

Sources believe that Turkey is trying to make a safe area for refugees over the 98 Km southern border with Jarablus-Azaz. The area had been liberated during the Euphrates Shield operation last month.

The Turkish President’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, declared that world powers have not ruled out Turkey’s idea for a “safe zone” in Syria but they have not shown a clear will to implement the plan either.

Kalin said during a television interview that Erdogan was pushing for an initial 48-hour ceasefire in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo with the plan to extend through the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, due to start around Sept. 11.

Commander of Sultan Murad Brigade of FSA Ahmad Othman told Reuters that the FSA would like a safe zone over the areas it has liberated. But he said that this would require an agreement between Russia, Turkey, and the U.S.

Othman said the opposition backed by Turkey will soon clash with Kurdish fighters in the area because they didn’t retreat, as per requests of the U.S. and Turkey.

Last year, NATO and Washington refused the request for a safe zone, yet Erdogan reiterated the need for such an area during the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China.

Sources hinted that the current situation may be in favor of Turkey’s request and it may even be accepted especially after Ankara and FSA’s success in defeating ISIS in certain areas.

Military wise, Turkish army-backed FSA brigades were able to gain control over seven villages to the north of Aleppo, Syria on Monday. The Turkish army confirmed that 98 Kilometers of the Turkish-Syrian border have been liberated during the Euphrates Shield operations.

Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu reported that ISIS is reinstating its militants in al-Bab city in an attempt to defend Raqqa governorate, the organization’s stronghold in Syria.

Head of Foreign Relations at the Syrian Turkmen Assembly Abdul Rahman Mustafa announced that FSA is advancing towards the south, adding that its fighters will advance as far as they can.