Turkey's plans for northeast Syria could end in deadlock similar to Cyprus - the Times

Turkey’s plans for northeast Syria could reach a years-long impasse similar to the country's Cyprus dispute, the Times said on Thursday.

"Any such mission would be the biggest and riskiest Turkish military operation since the invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974, an act that left a conflict still frozen decades later and blighted Turkey’s relations with the outside world," the Times said.

Turkey launched a military operation into northeast Syria on Wednesday stating it would set up a 30-kilometres deep safe zone stretching along its border to clear the region of Kurdish fighters and resettle some two million Syrian refugees. On the same day, the United States began moving high-value Islamic State (ISIS) prisoners from Kurdish-controlled prisons.

Ankara sees the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

"That is an extremely ambitious target, and leaves several questions unanswered," the Times said.

Kurdish forces could force Turkey into a stalemate through guerilla warfare and use their knowledge of the terrain to even out their military disadvantage, The Times said. "The Turkish forces could easily be sucked into a quagmire where they are under constant attack from the YPG."

Turkey earlier suggested that if the safe zone's southern border were expanded to include Deir al-Zor and Raqqa, the number of Syrian refugees to be resettled could reach three million.

This would mean Ankara taking full responsibility for tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners in eastern Syria, The Times said, adding that Turkey would also be exposed to attacks from remnants of ISIS.