While Turkey has a very controversial relationship with the Syrian conflict through its support and alleged military aid for various Islamist rebel factions, over the past few months it has talked about establishing what it calls a ‘safe zone’ in Northern Syria. Turkish President Erdogan has many times threatened to create such a zone, however has remained rather vague about how it could be established. The zone itself would stretch over much of the north of Aleppo Governorate in Syria, in a roughly 45km strip between the Euphrates River and the YPG/SDF controlled Afrin Canton. Many have suggested part of Turkey’s reason for establishing the zone is to prevent a contiguous Kurdish controlled territory across all of Northern Syria.
Originally it was thought that this would be established through a deployment of Turkish ground forces, however this failed to transpire. Then, rhetoric from Turkey suggested that its proxy militias would establish the zone themselves in areas captured for ISIS with air support from Turkish and Coalition jets. This too has yet to see any real success.
Following the shoot-down of a Russian jet by Turkish forces, and Russian bombing of Turkey rebels along the border area, Erdogan has once again revived rhetoric of establishing this safe zone as a way to protect ethnic Turkmen rebels.