Turkey considers need for ‘buffer zone’ within Syria for refugees

Press TV reports:

Turkey may send its military forces into Syrian soil to establish a “buffer zone,” should the current unrest in Syria skyrocket into a refugee crisis that would pose a threat to Ankara, a report says.

The report, published in the Turkish daily Posta on Thursday, warned of the prospect of a civil war in Syria, adding that it could send around 200,000 Syrians Turkey’s way.

Referring to the likelihood of establishing the restricted area, prominent Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand also emphasized that the option “was raised at the highest level, some time ago.”

Birand wrote:

The worst case scenario that Ankara fears most and will mobilize it is that the clashes expand to Aleppo and Damascus and the Assad regime decides to react extremely tough and bloody way. The meaning of this is that Assad uses all his military power and the internal conflict transforms quickly into an Alawite-Sunni clash. What is expected as a consequence of this is the flow of tens of thousands of Sunni-Syrians to Turkey. An official I spoke to on this subject said exactly this:

“Turkey has opened its territory for now, but when the figure reaches a point where we cannot handle it then we will have to close the border.”

Now, this is the situation the political power in Ankara worries about the most. The same official continued:

“We would close the border but we cannot turn our backs on neither the Sunnis nor the Alawites. If chaos starts, then we will have to form a security zone or a buffer zone inside Syrian territory.”

Yusuf Kanli adds:

Behind closed doors, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and top foreign ministry, security and intelligence officials held talks Wednesday and Thursday with Hassan Turkmani, a special envoy of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and warned him of Ankara’s deep concern for the future of its Arab neighbor.

Turkmani was reported to have been told plainly that his country had almost reached a “point of no return.” Unless the military operation was immediately stopped, urgent and radical reforms were undertaken and some key demands of the revolting people were met, the international community might be compelled to take some measures.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports:

Syrian security forces fanned out through villages and towns in the northern province of Idlib on Thursday, randomly hauling in males over age 16 as the government worked to silence a center of anti-regime protest.

In this border region, where thousands of Syrian civilians have fled to havens in Turkey, Turkish officials were preparing to send food, clean water, medicine and other aid to thousands more stranded on the Syrian side.

The unusual plan for a cross-border operation on Syrian soil appeared to have Syrian clearance, being announced by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after he met with an envoy from President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian regime.

“We have taken precautions and humanitarian aid will be supplied for around 10,000 people who are waiting on the Syrian side of the border,” Davutoglu said. He also reiterated Turkey’s support for major democratic reform in Syria.

The random detentions were concentrated on the major towns of Jisr al-Shughour and Maaret al-Numan and in nearby villages, an area where the army has massed troops for days in apparent preparation for a fresh military operation, Syrian human rights activist Mustafa Osso reported. He said at least 300 people were being detained daily.

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