In an effort to avoid a confrontation over northeast Syria, Turkey and the United States have agreed to jointly establish a Syrian buffer zone.
On Wednesday, Turkey and the U.S. reached a deal on how to set up a joint operations center to coordinate and manage the setting up of the safe zone. A joint statement by the Turkish Ministry of Defence and the U.S. embassy in Ankara said the two sides agreed to set up the Turkey-based operations center “as soon as possible” and that the safe zone “would become a ‘peace corridor,'” without providing further details.
The Syrian government, on whose territory this zone will be set up, was understandably outraged. The Bashar al-Assad regime officials called the agreement between Turkey and the United States on the Syrian buffer zone a “blatant attack” on the country’s sovereignty. “Syria expresses categorical rejection of the agreement announced by the U.S. and Turkish occupations on establishing the so-called [safe zone] which constitutes a blatant aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and a flagrant violation of the principles of […] international law and the UN Charter,” a Syrian source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told local media.
The US-Turkey statement did not specify how and when the zone would be created. But the timing of this joint undertaking makes its goals pretty clear.
Cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey in northeastern Syria began late last year when the two countries’ militaries began conducting joint patrols and established observation posts in the area. At the time, U.S. officials stated that the purpose of the project was to “deny escape routes” to Islamic State fighters fleeing Syria into other countries. Now that there are clear signs ISIS is regrouping in both Iraq and Syria, this cooperation is even more vital than before. By establishing the buffer zone as the framework in which Turkey will deal with ISIS threats on its territory, Washington will be able to prevent more Turkish involvement in a country slowly recovering from years of civil war.