NATO 'not considering' establishing Syria no-fly zone, top general says

NATO 'not considering' establishing Syria no-fly zone, top general says

İZMİR - Reuters
NATO not considering establishing Syria no-fly zone, top general says

Lt.-Gen. John Nicholson. AA Photo

NATO is not considering establishing a no-fly zone in northern Syria, something Turkey has been calling for to alleviate security and humanitarian pressure on its southern border, one of the alliance’s top generals has told Reuters.

“A no-fly zone is a resource-intensive undertaking,” Lt.-Gen. John Nicholson, the new head of LANDCOM, told Reuters in an interview at his headquarters in the Aegean province of İzmir.

Turkey has NATO’s second largest military and is host for Land Command (LANDCOM), which is charged with improving the effectiveness and response time of the alliance’s land forces.

Although Turkey has made no formal request to NATO for help in establishing a no-fly zone, it has repeatedly said that willing nations should put one in place to create safe areas in Syria, allowing some of an estimated 1.6 million Syrian refugees to be repatriated.

The recent example of Libya emphasized how much work was required for NATO to run air operations, according to Nicholson.

“But that’s not something we’re looking at right now in this context,” he said.

Ankara’s plans for establishing so-called “safe zones,” with air defense as a key component, have so far received a cool reception from allies. Military experts point out it would necessitate either agreement from the Syrian government or taking out Damascus’ advanced air defense systems.

Complicating matters, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is using U.S. air strikes as cover for his own air campaign against Syrian rebels, hitting the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL) stronghold of Raqqa in retaliation for the group’s killing of Syrian soldiers.

Syrian regime air strikes on Raqqa killed at least 95 people as a government delegation prepared for talks with key ally Russia yesterday on launching peace negotiations.