Turkey’s desire for safe zone in northern Syria justified, says Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday said Turkey’s desire to establish a safe zone in northern Syria is justified and Moscow was not indifferent to the issue.

The issue of the safe zone is related to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria and Russia, as the main backer of the Assad regime, is with meeting with both Ankara and Damascus on the matter, Lavrov said.

“They are suffering from the infiltration of terrorists coming from territory controlled by the U.S. right now,” state-run Anadolu news agency quoted the Russian foreign minister as saying in reference to Turkey in New York on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly. 

U.S. and Turkish officials last month agreed to work together to create a buffer zone free of fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terrorist organisation due to its links to outlawed Kurdish militant groups in Turkey and an existential threat.  

The YPG controls some enclaves in northeast Syria along the Turkish border and forms the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

However, Ankara has been critical of the lack of progress made with the envisaged zone, threatening to put its own operation plan into effect if Turkish troops do not control a “safe zone” within a few weeks.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Friday Turkey is not satisfied with the progress made on the zone, where U.S. and Turkish officials still disagree on the extent of the planned buffer area. 

Ankara has said the zone should run to a depth of up to 30 km with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussing the use of the region to build new settlements to rehouse over 1 million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. 

Lavrov also said Moscow would respond to the U.S. over the prevention of some Russian diplomats from attending the UN General Assembly.