image Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a symposium on presidential system in Istanbul, Turkey, February 11, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Turkish President Erdogan declares intent to create ‘safe zone’ in Syria

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Israel’s legalization law, stressing it was an “absolute provocation” against both the Palestinians and the international community, warning the Jewish State that its decision would bring an end to a viable peace agreement, as well as stability in the Middle East. 

“Israel’s decision to make new settlements in east Jerusalem and West Bank is an absolute provocation. Ending the blockade on Palestine, which is imposed by disregarding international laws and human rights, as well as illegal settlements is a prerequisite for achieving viable peace and stability in Middle East,” said Erdogan.

In a speech in Bahrain, broadcasted live on Turkish Television, President Erdogan said his country aimed to create a safe zone in Syria, extending its military operation, dubbed Euphrates Shield, to the towns of Manbij and Raqqa, immediately after Turkey succeed to conquer the Islamic State stronghold of al-Bab. 

“The step we are taking by cleansing al-Bab of Daesh (Islamic State) is aimed to a goal. After al-Bab, we will move towards east, to Manbij and Raqqa. If we can take a joint step with coalition forces, we are aiming to establish a safe zone cleansed of terrorist elements. Arab and Turkmen groups in particular, will find the opportunity to settle in this safe zone,” added Erdogan.

The Turkish leader also announced that if the US-led coalition would act together with his country, a planned safe zone would cover an area of at least 4000 to 5000 square kilometers, which is equal to some 3,475 miles, and would require an internationally imposed no-fly zone, to protect Syrians that seek refuge in the war-torn-country. 

“I first told Mr. (Barack) Obama and then (Donald) Trump about the plans to establish a safe zone, a 4,000- to 5,000-square-km area cleansed of terrorists,” concluded Erdogan.

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said last week that Turkey had presented a detailed plan to oust the Islamic State from its de-facto capital in Syria, Raqqa, and that ‘strategic discussions’ with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration were already under-way.