Russia shrugs off Merkel’s call for no-fly zone in Syria

Russia shrugs off Merkel’s call for no-fly zone in Syria

Russia shrugs off Merkel’s call for no-fly zone in Syria

AA photo

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov has shrugged off German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal to consider a no-fly zone over Syria, saying it could only be done with Damascus’ consent.

Gatilov said any no-fly zone would need to be approved by the Syrian government and endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, the Associated Press reported.

Merkel renewed Feb. 17 her proposal for a no-fly zone in Syria, saying it could be done by an agreement between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his backers and the coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“It would be helpful if there were an area in Syria where none of the parties to the conflict launched aerial attacks,” AFP quoted Merkel as saying before the German parliament.

“We can’t negotiate with the terrorists of the Islamic State [ISIL], but if we were able to reach an agreement between anti- and pro-Assad forces on a kind of no-fly zone, in the sense of a sanctuary for the many refugees, then this would save many lives and aid the political process about Syria’s future,” she said.

Merkel had said in an interview published on Feb. 15 that it would be “helpful” if there were areas where no side would carry out aerial bombardments – “a kind of no-fly zone.”

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters on Feb. 17 that Merkel’s suggestion came in the context of what was agreed upon in Munich, that a humanitarian corridor should be established to deliver aid to Syrian civilians, and hostilities should cease, hopefully in the next day or two.

“That is not in the spirit of the resolution that was passed by the U.N. Security Council in December and also not [in the spirit of] the attempt to reduce the violence,” Merkel said.

Spokesman Martin Schaefer said “If both can be implemented, then that will be the basis to protect the people who are on the Turkish border, maybe 40,000 to 70,000, from attacks from the air and on the ground.”

Schaefer gave no further details, however, on how such a no-fly zone would function.

Gatilov’s statement comes as Russian warplanes continue to strike militant positions around Aleppo in support of a Syrian army offensive. Russia has said it will continue to strike extremists in Syria despite a planned truce.

On the same day Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the U.S. was against a no-fly zone in Syria but this did not prevent Russian planes from flying over Syria. 

“But look, Russian warplanes swarm there and thousands, tens of thousands of are being oppressed,” Erdoğan said Feb. 17 in an address in Ankara.