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Turkish Sources: Aleppo’s Proposal is Based on a ‘Buffer Zone’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Aleppo. Khalil Ashawi / Reuters

Ankara- The Turkish Army escalated its airstrikes in the last 48 hours backing the Free Syrian Army with an aim to advance swiftly to al-Bab city in the northeast of Aleppo and to add new territories to its buffer zone that’s already established in north Syria.

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Turkey was still negotiating with Russia and the International Coalition a proposal that would allow residents of Aleppo to manage their city.

The sources said the Turkish proposal does not stipulates the creation of a so-called “autonomous zone” in Aleppo, but is based on the idea of leaving the city to its own residents after the withdrawal of all foreigners. The proposal would therefore employ the example of the buffer zone that Turkey is working to establish in northern Syria on a 5,000 kilometer square land, spanning from its borders near the Jarablus-Azaz area and extending 45 km deep inside the Syrian territories.

On Sunday, the Syrian regime refused a Turkish proposal transferred by U.N. Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura concerning the situation in the city of Aleppo and its besieged eastern side. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Damascus completely rejects de Mistura’s proposal to establish an autonomous zone in east Aleppo, saying it “violates Syria’s sovereignty.”

On Monday, the sources said Turkey is mainly working with Russia on this proposal, which was also presented to the U.N. and the International Coalition. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had also discussed the issue with his U.S. counterpart John Kerry in a telephone conversation last week, the sources said.

However, the sources added that Iran objects Turkey’s proposal, which stipulates the withdrawal of all foreign forces supporting the Syrian regime, in addition to removing their heavy weapons from the city. “Iran does not openly express its position, but leaves this issue to the Syrian regime,” the sources said.

In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a speech at the closing of a NATO meeting that the U.N. Security Council had failed to address the Syrian conflict and other global challenges.

In a linked development, Washington and Ankara were joining hands in an operation to liberate Raqqa, the main ISIS stronghold in north Syria. A U.S. liaison officer was now operating from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara to meet and coordinate with Turkish military commanders, and then report directly to Washington, KhabarTurk reported on Monday.