There has been a relative increase in indicators regarding the existence of Turkish preparations for ground operations to take place against ISIS on the border side of Syria, while sources of the Syrian opposition talk of Turkey’s intention to establish a safe zone inside Syria in an attempt to activate the Adana accord.
After days of media leaks published in the Turkish press, continuous reinforcements of the Turkish army on the border, the execution of the commando forces of a ground operation a couple of days ago and
ISIS strengthening its power on the other side of the border, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed that his country is preparing to “clean” the border from ISIS militants.
“We are doing all necessary preparations to clean the other side of the border because of the problems in Kilis,”The Gulf News quoted Erdogan as saying on May 12 after the Turkish border town came under repeated deadly rocket attacks.
Around two dozen people have been killed in Kilis by rocket fire from ISIS terrorists since January, prompting the army to respond with artillery fire.
Turkey, a member of the US-led coalition battling ISIS, has received almost none of the support it wanted from its allies in the fight against the extremist group and indicated Ankara was prepared to take unilateral action, Daily Sabah reported.
“While our citizens fall dead every day in the streets of Kilis by rockets launched from the other side, what can we expect from our allies? Let me say it here. We will not hesitate to take needed steps on our own if necessary,” Turkey’s president said.
One US presidential aide said the White House needed to view the rocket strikes on a par with the ISIS attacks on European capitals. “Turkey has been on the frontline against [ISIS] and we expect our allies to take attacks on Turkish soil no less seriously than attacks in Brussels or Paris,” The Washington Journal quoted the official as saying.
While Tony Blinken, the US Deputy Secretary of State, stated on May 13 that his country has reached a final agreement with Turkey concerning their cooperation in cleaning the areas between the cities of Manbej and Maree in Syria’s Aleppo countryside of ISIS militants, according to Turk Press.
Blinken said during a press conference held at the US State Department’s headquarters in Washington that the US-Turkish cooperation in this regard would be to increase support for the moderate Syrian opposition forces, and that the coming days will witness a big campaign against ISIS in these areas.
In addition, both Turkey and the US have confirmed plans that the US is preparing to send an advanced rocket launcher team to the Turkey-Syria border later in May, according to The Washington Journal.
In the meantime, the Turkish Yeni Safak reported that ISIS has been planting mines and explosives since May 8 in an effort to prevent any sudden land campaign from the Turkish military. The main goal of the mine planting is delaying sudden raids of Turkish land forces. It also prevents civilians from fleeing toward the Turkish border.
Head of the Syrian National Coalition, Anas al-Abdah, said on May 11 that Adana Accord (1998) between Turkey and Syria is paving the way for Ankara to create a safe zone in Syria, referring to the accord which stopped Hafez Assad from supporting, arming and providing shelter for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militia.
On the margin of his participation in a conference titled “The recent developments in Syria” in Bilecek in Turkey,Zaman Alwsl quoted al-Abdah as saying: “In case a safe zone is established, Ankara will be able to secure its borders and Syrians can return safely to their country.”
“At the meantime, it is difficult for the refugees to return because their homes are bombed on daily basis. We hope that Turkish officials would take courageous steps in the establishment of a safe zone because it is very important for both Syria and Turkey. It will also lessen Ankara’s burdens,” he added.
The Syria safe zone has been placed on debate for a while now, with only talks and no action. However, the recent move by the Turkish military ignited a sense of hope that a safe zone could be created.
Perhaps Turkey has realized that such a move could be of benefit to Ankara more than the Syrians: ending the daily Kilis bombardments, diminishing the number of Syrian refugees on Turkish soil, pushing back ISIS and preventing the Kurds from establishing their intended autonomous region.