Trump to order Pentagon to set up ‘safe zones’ for refugees in Syria

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US President Donald Trump takes the cap off a pen to sign an executive order to start the Mexico border wall project at the Department of Homeland Security facility in Washington, DC, on January 25, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM

US President Donald Trump is expected to order the Pentagon and the State Department in the coming days to craft a plan for setting up “safe zones” for refugees in Syria, according to a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

Underlining that the document gave no details on what would constitute a safe zone, Reuters noted that the Turkish government had long pressed the Obama administration, without success, for the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria on its border with Turkey.

Reuters said the draft executive order awaiting Trump’s signature signaled that the new administration may be preparing a step that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had long resisted, fearing the potential of being pulled deeper into the bloody conflict and the threat of clashes between US and Russian warplanes over Syria.

The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense, is directed within 90 days of the date of this order to produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement,” the draft order said.

Turkey is constructing a 790-kilometer (490 mile)-long concrete wall along the Turkish-Syrian border which will be completed in the first half of 2017.

In order to stop illegal crossings over its 900-kilometer (559 mile) border with Syria, Turkish army units are erecting the modular walls along the Turkish-Syrian border between the Suruç district of Şanlıurfa and the Karkamış district of Gaziantep.

Meanwhile, US Department of Defense spokesperson Adrian J.T.. Rankine-Galloway said on Nov. 3 of last year that the United States is not working with Turkey to create a “safe zone” along the Turkish-Syrian border for refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.

We do not think a safe zone would resolve the fundamental issues on the ground because there continues to be fighting on the ground,” he said.

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