Turkey shares Trump interest for Syria safe zones
ANKARA - Turkey on Thursday said it would watch closely new US President Donald Trump's reported interest in setting up safe zones in Syria to house refugees, an idea that Ankara has pushed for months.
US media reported earlier Thursday that the Pentagon would be given 90 days to draw up a plan to set up "safe zones" in or near Syria where refugees from the nation's civil war can shelter.
Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu told reporters that Ankara would make an assessment after seeing what Washington proposed.
"What is important is what the result will be of this study, what type of recommendations will come out," Muftuoglu told reporters in Ankara.
"Turkey has from the start suggested this. Jarabulus is the best example," he said, referring to a Syrian border town taken in August by Ankara-backed Syrian rebels from jihadists.
Thousands of Syrians have since crossed back to Jarabulus, with the Turkish authorities emphasising a degree of normality has now returned to the town.
Ankara launched an ambitious military operation on August 24 against the Islamic State group (IS) and Kurdish militia forces to push them away from its border.
Supporting Syrian opposition fighters from different groups, the operation dubbed "Euphrates Shield" recaptured towns from IS including Jarabulus and Al Rai in northern Syria.
Currently Ankara-backed fighters are trying to retake the town of Al Bab but dozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed during weeks of intense battles.
Turkey has repeatedly called for a "safe zone" inside Syria supported by a no-fly zone, which it believes could help to alleviate the burden of accommodating Syrian refugees.
However Ankara was piqued by the at best lukewarm interest of the outgoing administration of Barack Obama in the safe zone idea, adding to tensions in relations.
According to Ankara, some 2.7 million Syrian citizens have sought refuge in Turkey from the almost six-year civil war.
Turkey says it has spent over $25 billion (23.3 billion euros) on the refugees since the start of the conflict in early 2011.