Inside Syria

How will a ‘safe zone’ impact Syria’s crisis?

With up to 1,000 refugees streaming across the border daily, Turkey has to rethink its policy towards the former ally.

It has been more than a year since the uprising in Syria began – and the violence continues. On Saturday, two explosions in Damascus, the country’s capital, killed at least 27 people and injured nearly 100 others, leading to fears that groups are trying to take advantage of a growing power vacuum in the country. Neighbouring Turkey also appears to have growing security concerns.

What if chaos increases in the country and it begins to have an impact on the border with Turkey, then you have to be prepared for that…Turkey just cannot be oblivious to what’s happening in Syria, it has to have a role… The Turks have no choice but to deal with the situation whether they like it or not…

Kamran Bokhari, a geo-political strategist

They were once the most trusted of allies, but as the year-long crackdown on protesters intensifies, Turkey’s relations with Syria have soured.

And with up to 1,000 refugees streaming across the border every day, Turkey is now being forced to rethink its policy towards its former friend.

Citing Syria’s security risks, the Turkish government urged all its nationals to leave Syria. And Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, has for the first time publically talked about the possibility of setting up a ‘buffer zone’ across the border.

The creation of a ‘safe zone’ or ‘humanitarian corridor’ would protect civilians but it is a move that would undoubtedly antagonise Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, who was once Ankara’s trusted ally.

It might also lead to a confrontation with the Syrian army, which could have unknown consequences in a region that is already on the edge.

Meanwhile, Kofi Annan has called on the UN Security Council to end its disputes over Syria and unite under “one voice.”

I don’t think it’s about who would intervene, it’s about legitimacy. Without Turkish participation and active support, no intervention would have any success at all.

Haldun Solmazturk, a retired Turkish brigadier-general

He warned: “The conflict in a region of the world that has seen many traumatic events, I think we need to handle the situation in Syria very, very carefully. Yes, we tend to focus on Syria, but any miscalculation that leads to major escalation will have an impact in the region, which will be extremely difficult to manage.”

The lack of international consensus may prove the biggest obstacle to a Turkish-led buffer zone. Without broad-based international backing, Turkey is unlikely to pursue what would be an escalation of the crisis.

What are the consequences of a ‘buffer zone’ along the Turkish-Syrian border? And what role does Iran play?

Inside Syria, with presenter Adrian Finighan, discusses with: Haldun Solmazturk, a retired brigadier-general in the Turkish army; Kamran Bokhari, a geo-political strategist and vice-president for Middle East and South Asian Affairs at the intelligence think tank Stratfor; and Halla Diyab, a Syrian writer and broadcaster, who is also a member of the Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria (ODFS).

“It’s not about managing this situation rather than creating the situation. This buffer zone can be the trigger of aggression between the Turkish army and the Syrian army. Because the Syrian armies will secure their borders, will go into a fight with the Turkish army if that happens. And, being a member of NATO, the NATO will be obliged to come to aid a member of its states. And that will lead to the intervention of the NATO into the situation and this will escalate the situation.”

Halla Diyab, a Syrian writer and broadcaster