US and Turkey agree to forge ‘ISIL-free zone’ in Syria, official confirms
A Turkish Air Force A400M tactical transport aircraft is parked at Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, Turkey, July 24, 2015. Reuters Photo
The United States and Turkey have agreed to work together to clear Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants from northern Syria by forming an “ISIL-free zone,” a U.S. official said on July 27, confirming a Hürriyet Daily News report on July 25.
“The goal is to establish an ISIL-free zone and ensure greater security and stability along Turkey’s border with Syria,” the official told the Agence France-Presse.
This matched an action plan earlier reported by Hürriyet Daily News Ankara bureau chief Serkan Demirtaş on July 25.
The plan was part of a comprehensive deal between the two allies which has been seen a “a game changer”in the fight against ISIL by the United States administration, whose warplanes will be able to use this region’s most strategic military base in İncirlik as part of its aerial campaign against jihadist positions, the Daily News report had said.
The ISIL-free zone will be 98 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide and situated between the Mare-Jarablus line. A good portion of this area is currently under ISIL control, and Turkey already vowed it would not tolerate the jihadists posing a threat to the Turkish border.
Sources emphasized they have opted to call it the “ISIL-free zone” instead of a “security or safe zone” because of objections raised by Washington, who refrained from giving the wrong message to the Syrian regime, as well as Russia and Iran.
The plan crafted by Ankara and Washington foresees the deployment of Free Syrian Army (FSA) units to the area if ISIL is completely cleared from that particular zone, which would both prevent the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) from further expanding its influence towards the West and create a safe environment to shelter Syrians fleeing violence or those who want to return to their homelands.