Turkey, US work to create buffer zone in northern Syria

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In addition, there seems to be disagreement over how wide the proposed “peace corridor” should be. Turkey’s defense minister on Monday said the buffer zone would be between 30 and 40 kilometers (19-25 miles) wide, whereas the US had proposed something half this size.

Kurds excluded from talks

And the fate of northern Syria’s Kurds remains unknown, too. Aldar Khalil, a senior Kurdish official in Syria, said “the details of the [US-Turkish] agreement are completely unclear.” The Kurds had wanted to be included in talks, he explained, “but Turkey was not interested in trilateral dialogue.”

“A solution reached by Syrians to take matters into their own hands would have been the right approach,” Khalil said, adding he doubts doubts Turkey is really seeking security and peace. Instead, Khalil believes, “Turkey is trying to expand its borders and to instrumentalize the Syrian war to further its own agenda.”

The Kurds and Syrian government have expressed concern that Turkey may plan to expel the local Kurdish population from norther Syria through another military offensive. In 2018, Turkish forces assaulted the city of Afrin, in northern Syria.

“After the military operation there were abductions, extortions, there was looting, and Afrin-based Kurds were driven from their homes and replaced by the families of jihadis,” said Muhammed Bakir of the Rojava Center for Strategic Studies, adding he was concerned that this expulsion of Kurds could endanger the long-term stability and security of the region.

Returning Syrian refugees

The buffer zone agreed between Washington and Ankara is officially designed to allow Syrian refugees to return to the country’s north. Indeed, a statement released by both parties says the “peace corridor is intended to allow displaced refugees to return to their homes.” No country in the world has taken in as many Syrian refugees as neighboring Turkey. But since the onset of Turkey’s economic crisis last summer, which has put growing pressure on the domestic labor market, resentment is growing against the 3.6 million Syrians refugees in the country.

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