Trump backs ‘safe zones’ in Syria
PENNSYLVANIAU.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Dec. 15 that the United States would create “safe zones” in Syria, a demand Turkey had been longing for and just as the evacuation of civilians and rebels from the besieged parts of Syria’s Aleppo was ongoing.
“When I look at what’s going on in Syria, it’s so sad,” the New York Times quoted Trump as telling a crowd during one of his “Thank You” tours in Pennsylvania.
“It’s so sad, and we’re going to help people,” he said.
Trump said he would ask the Persian Gulf nations to put up money for the project, adding, “We’ll build and help build safe zones in Syria, so people will have a chance.”
This was his first reference to such an American role in the war in Syria since he was elected, and one that comes as the Syrian government has all but recaptured the rebel stronghold of Aleppo.
Ankara has long been demanding for the establishment of a safe zone between in northern Syria and a no-fly zone so that refugees would not be threatened.
Trump talked during the campaign about building safe zones, presenting them as a way to stem the tide of refugees into Europe. But this was the first time he had repeated the proposal since he began receiving intelligence briefings.
Some analysts and military commanders have warned that it would be a significant and potentially dangerous undertaking on a complex battlefield over which Russian planes have been flying raids.
Trump’s safe zone announcement came hours before the head of the Turkish Red Crescent, Kerem Kınık, said Turkey would set up 10,000 tents for Aleppo refugees at camps in the Syrian city of Idlib.
Kınık told state-run Anadolu Agency Dec. 16 that the Turkish body had begun building a tent city using heavy-construction equipment some 6 to 7 kilometers (around 4 miles) from the Turkish border near the southern province of Hatay.
Kınık said the tent city would be built as soon as possible.
The Turkish Red Crescent is also preparing to increase the capacity of the refugee camps as reports surface that the number of people evacuated from Aleppo could reach up to 50,000, he added.
Kınık said the camp near the Turkish border would host rest areas, school, health center, mobile toilets and bath facilities.
“The first phase of the camp will be completed within three to four days,” he said.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Dec. 16 that Turkey would take in the most vulnerable - including the old, children and sick - but would consider allowing more in later “if there’s a need.”
“But it looks like those people, with the hope of returning to Aleppo one day, want to remain within Syria even if there are safer areas available,” Çavuşoğlu said.