Turkey rejects any alternative to Ankara-controlled safe zone in Syria - analyst

Turkey has made clear its desire for sole control over a proposed buffer zone in northern Syria, rejecting a U.S. proposal for a multinational force to police the area, wrote Thomas Seibert in his Wednesday column for Arab Weekly.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 5 lashed out at what he viewed as foot-dragging by the United States to withdraw from the region, Seibert recalled, noting that Turkey’s strongman vowed to send soldiers to occupy the Syrian city of Manbij if the United States failed to remove the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the area.

The YPG, which Ankara designates a terrorist organisation, is a crucial ally of the Washington in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

“If a system of self-rule for the people of the region cannot be established within a few months with Turkish support, again, our patience will run out,” the Turkish president said, adding, “In other words, in that case we will have the right to implement our own plans.”

Some observers are asserting that Erdoğan is using the issue to win over voters ahead of the March 31 local elections, Seibert wrote, however, this operation would be Turkey’s third into neighbouring Syria.

While underlining that while the United States supports the idea of a buffer zone, it does not want Turkey to be in full control, the Arab Weekly columnist pointed out that Washington was trying to get Western partners, such as Australia, France and the United Kingdom to patrol the stretch of Syrian territory along the Turkish border until the U.S withdrawal.

Turkey, however, has said that the U.S. plan is not an option with Erdoğan stressing that Turkish troops would be welcomed by locals in Syria.

Erdoğan is now preparing to meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rohani February 14 in Sochi, Russia, where the three countries who are main players in Syria will discuss the war-torn country.

Meanwhile, Putin earlier last month urged Turkey to step up cooperation with the Assad regime, Seibert recalled.

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