Syria warns against unilateral attempts to establish safe zones

Damascus, Jan 30 (IANS) Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned on Monday against any attempt by foreign powers to establish safe zones in northern Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

Al-Moallem made the remarks at a meeting with visiting United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, where both agreed that imposing safe zones, as proposed by US President Donald Trump, would be “unsafe” and violate the sovereignty of Syria.

On Wednesday, Trump said he “will absolutely do safe zones in Syria” for refugees fleeing the war in the country, amid reports that he will task the Pentagon to prepare a plan for setting up safe zones in northern Syria.

Turkey agreed with the idea, as Ankara has long been seeking to create such zones in northern Syria, especially when it has forces there fighting the Islamic State group and Kurdish-backed militias.

In separate phone calls with Trump on Sunday, Saudi King Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen to help refugees “displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” the White House said in a press release.

Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country may support the US initiative to establish safe zones for refugees in Syria, noting that the plan would require close cooperation with the UN and approval from the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.