17 April 2014, Thursday
Today's Zaman

Syrian opposition seeks no-fly zone near Turkish border

17 November 2011, Thursday /TODAY'S ZAMAN
Opposition forces in Syria are seeking the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria's north and have asked Turkey to enforce a ban on Syrian military flights, Today's Zaman has learned.

The revelation came after the Turkish daily Sabah reported a deal carved out by Turkey, the Arab League and the Syrian opposition under which Turkey would enforce a no-fly zone over the city of Aleppo in northern Syria.

The report noted that Turkey would also oversee the establishment of a no-fly zone north of Aleppo up to the Turkish border -- a zone of about five kilometers, while the US and the EU would remain guarantors and the Arab League a supporter of the agreement.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official denied the existence such a plan but said that representatives of the Syrian opposition have “expressed some of their wishes” to the media. “We believe that specific story [about the deal] was based on such statements,” the official told Today's Zaman on Thursday.

The Sabah daily had suggested the aim of the no-fly zone would be to turn Aleppo into a Syrian Benghazi, like the Libyan city that functioned as the military and political base of the Libyan opposition before the unrest finally calmed last month. According to the information the daily gathered on this request by the Syrian opposition, NATO would not be included in the process and countries remaining in close contact with the Assad regime -- China and Russia -- would be persuaded to join the no-fly zone agreement as the death toll increases in the country.

The suggested no-fly zone is planned in such a way as to accommodate defecting soldiers from the Syrian army and to be able to expand in time as Syrians flock to the new safe-zone to escape the Assad regime's repression. Turkey currently hosts a small number of high-ranking Syrian officials who defected months ago to start an oppositional army called the Syrian Free Army, but does not supply weapons or logistics for the oppositional forces of any country or international body.

The Syrian Free Army aims to "bring down the regime and protect citizens from the repression ... and prevent chaos as soon as the regime falls," Reuters reported on Thursday, quoting a statement by the army earlier this week when it announced that the opposition army will form a military court to try "members of the regime who are proven to have been involved in killing operations." The opposition army is believed to be led by Col. Riad al-Asaad, a Syrian officer currently based in Turkey, close to the Syrian border.

Meanwhile, a senior US diplomat reiterated on Thursday the close cooperation between Turkey and the US regarding the Syrian issue and noted “there has to be consequences” for Assad's bloody crackdown. “The United States and Turkey have been working very closely together and I think share the same goals," Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs, said on Thursday according to a report by the Anatolia news agency. “Turks have done what they said they would do,” Gordon added to stress that Turkey is keeping to its plans regarding Syria and is increasing its application of pressure on the country, a development the US welcomes.

"Turkey has made it clear that there would be consequences, sanctions, in particular in the arms relationship, and we would like to see even more because in our view there has to be consequences for Assad's violence against his own population," Gordon added.

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