Assad adviser calls Turkey’s safe zone in northeast Syria illegal land grab

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Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on Tuesday said Turkey’s idea of carving out a safe zone in northeastern Syria smacked of an illegal land grab, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a Middle East conference in Moscow organized by the Valdai Discussion Club, Shaaban complained about Ankara’s plans to clear the area near the border of the US-backed Kurdish militia and to move into territory there.

The plans were repeatedly brought forward by several Turkish government officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Turkey has all the new ambition to occupy other people’s land, and I think we are facing Erdoğan, who has dreams of reinvigorating and recreating the Ottoman Empire,” she said.

“But I don’t think he will be able to do that because our people are there to defend our land.”

Turkey backs the anti-Assad rebels who still have a foothold in northwestern Syria and maintains troops in the area after carrying out two separate cross-border operations.

Shaaban also ruled out the idea of granting Syrian Kurds autonomy.

“Autonomy means the partition of Syria. We have no way to partition Syria,” she told Reuters.

The Kurdish-led authority that runs much of north and east Syria has presented a roadmap for a deal with Assad in recent meetings with his key ally Russia.

The Kurds want to safeguard their autonomous region inside a decentralized state when US troops currently backing them pull out. They also hope a deal with Damascus would dissuade neighboring Turkey from attacking them.

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