Foreign minister says areas cleared of fighters belonging to ISIL can become haven for Syrians displaced by war.by Al Jazeera
Turkey has said areas in north Syria cleared of fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group will become safe zones.
Saturday’s announcement made by Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, came after Ankara announced it had begun bombing ISIL positions in Syria and and Kurdish fighters’ camps in northern Iraq.
“When areas in northern Syria are cleared of the (ISIL) threat, the safe zones will be formed naturally,” Cavusoglu told a news conference.
“We have always defended safe zones and no-fly zones in Syria. People who have been displaced can be placed in those safe zones.”
The conflict in Syria has displaced more than 10 million people, with many residing in makeshift camps near the Turkish border.These areas have been targeted a number of times by Syrian military bombardment. The Turkish government has repeatedly called for the setting-up of safe zones to protect these people.
Several Turkish media outlets had earlier reported the government was considering setting up a 33km-wide safe zone inside Syria, stretching from the outskirts of Kurdish-held Kobane to areas controlled by pro-Western rebel groups.
Its purpose would be to strengthen the rebels’ hand against ISIL and prevent the Kurdish fighters from capturing new border areas.
Third wave of attacks
Turkish forces on Saturday unleashed a third wave of air strikes and ground attacks against the two targeted factions.
“We have given instructions for a third series of strikes in Syria and Iraq. Air and ground operations are under way,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara, adding that 590 suspected ISIL and PKK members were arrested in raids across Turkey.
The military action by Ankara was seen as a potential game changer in the war against ISIL.
Turkey earlier this week approved the full use of its airbases by the US-led coalition against ISIL, according to the foreign ministry, marking a major change in its policy following a suicide bomb attack in Suruc , bordering Syria.
The offensive against the PKK came after the Kurdish group claimed attacks on security forces in the last days.
A spokesman in Iraq for the PKK, which has been fighting Turkey for autonomy since 1984 and is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara and its allies, said the strikes likely spelled the end of the peace process.
“Turkey has basically ended the cease-fire,” Zagros Hiwa told the AP news agency.