Turkey wants humanitarian aid strip on Syrian side of border: Deputy PM
ANKARA – Reuters
AA PhotoTurkey wants the establishment of a secure humanitarian aid strip 10 kilometers deep into the Syrian side of its border, including the town of Azaz, in order to prevent “attempts to change the demographic structure” of the area, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan stated on Feb. 17.
“We want to create a humanitarian aid corridor, including Azaz, 10 km deep inside Syria. This zone should be free from clashes,” Akdoğan said in an interview on broadcaster AHaber.
Syrian government forces backed by Russian air strikes have advanced towards the Turkish border in a major offensive in recent weeks. Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces, regarded by Ankara as a terrorist organization, have taken advantage of the violence to seize territory from Syrian rebels, thus taking the Menagh air base north of Aleppo.
Azaz is the last rebel stronghold before the border with Turkey north of Aleppo, part of what was, before the Syrian government offensive, a supply route from Turkey to the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey has accused the PYD and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), of pursuing “demographic change” in northern Syria by forcibly displacing Turkmen and Arab communities.
“There is a game being played with the aim of changing the demographic structure. Turkey should not be part of this game,” said Akdoğan.
Turkey started shelling PYD targets in northern Syria on Feb. 13.
Turkey, home to more than 2.6 million Syrian refugees, has long pushed for the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria to protect displaced civilians, avoiding the need to bring them into Turkey.
But the proposal has so far gained little traction with Washington or NATO allies who fear it would require an internationally patrolled no-fly zone which could put them in direct confrontation with Assad and his allies.
However, on Feb. 15 German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she backed a call from Turkey for a kind of a no-fly zone over a part of Syria, saying it would alleviate the situation of displaced Syrians.
Akdoğan said another 600,000 people could flee to the Turkish border if Aleppo falls to the Syrian army.