Syria safe zone 'best alternative - Ex US Envoy | Eurasia Diary -

8 April, Wednesday

Syria safe zone 'best alternative - Ex US Envoy

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The "best alternative" to prevent an all-out humanitarian catastrophe in northwestern Syria's Idlib province is to institute a safe zone in the region, the Syria envoy under President Barack Obama said in remarks published Monday, Eurasia Diary reports citing Yeni Safak. 

"The best option that eschews direct U.S. military intervention is a safe zone located on the Syrian side of the Turkish border that is defended by Turkish artillery, missile, and antiaircraft systems located on the Turkish side of the border," Robert Ford, who was Washington's ambassador to Damascus from 2010-2014, wrote in the Foreign Affairs website.

"This might be enough to deter the Syrian military; Syrian fighters have stopped flying where the armed Syrian opposition used Turkish missiles to shoot down two Syrian helicopters earlier this month. If it is not, and Syrian ground units fire on or approach the safe zone, Turkey could counter with artillery and rocket fire, coordinating with Syrian opposition fighters," he added.

"A Safe Zone Could Forestall a Humanitarian Crisis."

Idlib, near Turkey's southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Ankara and Moscow in late 2018.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the territory where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.

The Syrian regime offensive has displaced roughly 900,000 from northwest Syria since it began in December.


- NATO should invoke Article 5 for Turkey

Ford said the "biggest potential problem" is determining how it would be implemented.

"Syrian forces would almost certainly test the safe zone, triggering a Turkish defensive response," he said. "If Russian aircraft back a Syrian incursion and shoot at Turkish units defending from inside Turkey, then NATO should invoke Article 5 to defend Turkish sovereignty and those Turkish units."

"Beyond the enormous humanitarian stakes, the likelihood of huge new refugee flows again destabilizing Europe requires NATO to stand by Turkey if its forces defend a safe zone just inside Syria," he added.

"That also means rallying the support of NATO members to back Turkish plans and to organize a humanitarian response to support the safe zone," urged Ford.

Turkey already hosts over 3.7 million refugees who fled the Syrian conflict since it began in 2011.

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