After many months of preparation and negotiation with the US government, Turkey has taken the first step towards setting up a buffer zone within Syrian territory. Turkey has assisted Turkmen militia to enter northern Syria and set up a base near the border.
For months Turkey has been warning the international community that it is planning to establish a buffer zone within Syrian territory, in order to control the situation at the border, where fierce battles between ISIS and YPG forces are taking place.
During previous months thousands of troops, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, howitzers and rocket launchers were sent to the border by the Turkish Army. They were preparing to invade and create a 90km long, 30-40km wide buffer zone within northern Syria.
However, it appears that Turkey has opted for a more cautious policy. Instead of a direct invasion of Syria, the Turkish Army has enabled Turkmen fighters to settle in the town of Azaz, after providing them with an armoured escort through a border crossing at Bab al-Salama. The city of Azaz is in the eastern part of the buffer zone that Turkey was planning to establish. The other end of the zone was marked by the banks of the river Euphrates.
According to Feridun Sinirlioglu, under-secretary with the Turkish foreign ministry, any attempt by ISIS or Kurdish fighters to infiltrate the area between the Euphrates and the city of Azaz would be ‘neutralized by both Turkish and US military forces,’ although the U.S government has disputed this statement as far as the Kurds of Syria are concerned.
The buffer zone that Turkey is planning to establish will disrupt any attempt by the YPG to unify territories that its forces control in northern Syria.
The YPG leadership has been trying to connect the three non-contiguous Kurdish cantons of (from east to west) Cizîrê, Kobani and Afrin. If they had succeeded they would have establish Rojava, a de facto autonomous region not recognized by the Syrian government, with a total population of 4.6 million people.
According to U.S officials, Washington was not aware of Turkey’s initiative to enable Turkmen fighters to settle in the town of Azaz.