Turkey aims to establish safe zone in northern Syria

Turkey aims to open up a safe zone in northern Syria as part of an ongoing military operation there, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to Anadolu Agency.

“Here is our goal: We want to declare a safe zone that is 95 by 45 kilometers (60 by 30 miles), or 4,000-5,000 square kilometers (2,385-3,100 square miles),” Erdogan told an NGO meeting in New York.

The targeted region includes the towns of Jarabulus and al-Rai, which have been liberated from Daesh by moderate opposition forces supported by the Turkish military since Ankara launched Operation Euphrates Shield late last month.

Erdogan said his government wants to build settlements in the safe zone for Syrian refugees in Turkey to return to their country, or for those in Syria who seek to flee the ongoing bloodshed.

He also said a UN convoy hit inside Syria earlier this week was struck by regime forces while entering Aleppo, where nearly 300,000 residents are in need of humanitarian aid amid an ongoing siege.

Speaking at another Turkish-American NGO later in the day, Erdogan said that as the Turkey backed offensive in northern Syria is expanding toward al-Bab, a Daesh stronghold about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south to Turkish border, some countries are asking whether Ankara had consent of Syrian regime in Damascus in its move.

“We do not recognize Bashar al Assad regime in Syria as a legitimate addressee,” Erdogan said. “Jarabulus people invited us; al-Rai people invited us. And now people in al-Bab invite us. That is why we intervened in these places.”