Turkey seeks to solve several problems at once with its new “safe zone” concept in northern Syria. The idea is to weaken or eradicate the YPG, which Ankara views as part of the PKK, while solving the refugee crises in Turkey and potential refugee crises from some who might flee Idlib under another deal. A VOA piece says Turkey is “proposing a 250-kilometer-long and 32-kilometer-deep zone in northeast Syria to protect the Turkish border from the Syrian YPG Kurdish militia. Ankara accuses the YPG of links to Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey.” Another report notes that “millions of Syrians” could return after a Turkish operation, hinting at demographic changes since those returning would not be returning to areas they fled from mostly, but to the Kurdish areas in eastern Syria.
The piece says Turkey has already returned “300,000 Syrians out of the 4 million that have sought refuge in Turkey” to areas captured from the YPG, primarily in Afrin where a kind of major population change appears to have happened. A recent piece at the NYT argued that 300,000, mostly Kurds, had fled Afrin, and the VOA now says that 300,000, mostly Arabs, have been moved into Afrin from refugee camps.
The talk about Syrians returning not only makes the Syrians happy, supposedly, it also removes the YPG threat, Ankara thinks. It also may help solve the HTS issue in Idlib and solves a fourth issue, the desire to gain votes in Turkey among people who are annoyed at the numerous refugees. “There is a huge amount of discontent in Turkey about Syrians,” an expert says.
The EU will fund momentous demographic change in Syria?
The VOA reports: “The plan would be to build two-story houses with gardens of 500-square meters so the inhabitants could begin a new life,” Erdogan said, adding that a buffer zone “would also block migration completely.”
So immigration would also be “blocked” under this plan? And a Turkish diplomat said the EU might pay for the construction? “The EU seems to be quite willing to play that role because they fear a new influx of refugees emanating from Syria. And Erdogan saw that clearly when dealing with the EU,” he added.
And this will boost the Turkish economy. “Reconciliation with Syria in economic terms would be perfect for Turkey.”
Turkey and Russia met this week as well and the economy was an important aspect. This means that a deal could involve helping Turkey’s economy by rebuilding in Syria as Russia pressure’s Damascus to accept the safe-zone concept. Is that the deal in the works?
Turkey has already indicated it will not allow a “terror corridor” along its border and has also said that the US concept of a safe zone is different than Ankara’s interpretation. Turkey also says it wants to return these areas to their “true owners” which appears to mean mostly Arab refugees living in Turkey.
Turkey said it would not let the safe zone become a “terror swamp.”