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Erdogan renews call for safe zone in northern Syria

The Turkish president said his proposed safe zone would require a no fly zone [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 14 February, 2017

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday renewed his calls for the establishment of a "safe zone" in northern Syria where refugees could be housed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday renewed his calls for the establishment of a "safe zone" in northern Syria where refugees could be housed.

"Our objective here is (to establish) an area of at least 4,000, 5,000 square kilometres free from terrorism, to create a safe zone," Erdogan said in a televised speech in Bahrain, which he’s visiting as part of a Gulf tour.

Erdogan added the area would also require a "no-fly" zone.

Turkey has repeatedly called for such a zone, which it believes could help to alleviate the burden of accommodating Syrian refugees fleeing the violence in their country.

Late last month, US media reported the Pentagon would be given 90 days to draw up a plan to set up "safe zones" which Turkey said it would watch closely.

The plan has gained support by Syria’s neighbours who bare the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis, however it has been met with resistance by UN officials.

Earlier this month, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees said Syria was not the right place for such an initiative.

“Let’s not waste time planning safe zones that will not be set up because they will not be safe for people to go back,” Grandi said.

“Let us concentrate on making peace so that everywhere becomes safe. That should be the investment,” he said.

Turkey currently hosts over 2.7 million Syrian refugees according to the UN High Commission for Refugees.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fueled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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