Mideast expert expects Turkey to heed Russia’s stance on buffer zones in Syria

Erdogan won’t abruptly rush towards creating a buffer zone in the north of Syria without factoring in Moscow’s position, Vladimir Fitin, head of the Center of the Near and Middle East at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, told TASS on Thursday.

"I think Turkey won’t make any abrupt and unexpected moves without consulting Russia. That said, the process of negotiations carries on uninterrupted. In particular, at their meeting in the Kremlin on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, voiced their intention to hold a new Russia-Turkey-Iran summit on Syria soon," the Mideast specialist said.

"Evidently, it will look into the issues that are most sensitive for a final Syrian settlement," Fitin said.

He said the vagueness of Washington’s troop pullout plan makes the buffer zone issue also uncertain. It remains unclear who will occupy the void that will be left by the US military once it pulls out. "This refers to 20 observation posts in the country’s northeast," the Middle East analyst said, reiterating Ankara’s consistent position that says these territories should go to the Turkish armed forces and a buffer zone must be created along the entire Syrian-Turkish border.

"Turkey understands that apart from the US, whose influence in Syria has visibly decreased of late, Russia and the Astana peace partners - the Iranians, emerge as key players," Fitin went on to point out.

"Besides we know the position of Damascus: Syria must be a single and undivided (state), and the jurisdiction of the official government must cover this zone as well," he concluded.

Buffer zone

After his talks with Trump, on January 15, Erdogan confirmed his country’s intention to create a buffer zone in northern Syria. He said Ankara was prepared to maintain security on the ground, while the United States would do the same in the airspace.

Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkey would control the buffer zone, should it be created.

The discussion on creating a buffer zone began back in 2013 because of the conflict in Syria. The possibility of creating a no-fly zone and a zone of security on Syrian soil for refugees was considered then, too. Ankara has raised this subject every year since, but each time the plans had to be aborted for varying reasons.

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