Syrian rebels urged US President Donald Trump to fulfil a pledge to create safe zones in their country, but analysts doubted he would proceed with a step that could drag Washington deeper into war, hasten Syria’s fragmentation and risk conflict with Russia.
President Trump has ordered the Pentagon and State Department to develop a series of “safe zones” in Syria.
Trump told ABC News on Wednesday he “will absolutely do safe zones in Syria” for refugees fleeing violence and that Europe had made a mistake by admitting millions of refugees from Syria.
The Syrian political and armed opposition groups have for long demanded the establishment of safe zones in Syria to protect civilians fleeing airstrikes and bombardment by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
According to monitors, the move could draw the US deeper into Syria’s 6-year-old civil war.
But reflecting uncertainties about the announcement, representatives of the insurgents voiced only cautious optimism.
“We’ve seen no result on the ground from (US) statements that were made six years ago. So therefore we await action before anything else,” said Fares al-Bayoush, a rebel commander in northwestern Syria.
There was no immediate word from Damascus, but it is sure to oppose such a move as Assad has vowed to regain control of all Syria.
Iran, which backs militias in Syria including Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group, would also oppose any US intervention.
In the meantime, Russia said it had not been consulted on Trump’s plan, warning that it should not “exacerbate the situation with refugees” and Washington should weigh up “all the consequences.”
Saleh al-Zein, the official spokesman of the al-Shamiya Front, a main rebel group in northwestern Syria, told ARA News that all rebel factions would support the establishment of safe zones in Syria.
“Such zones would provide protection to civilians, to displaced people from war-torn towns and villages across the country,” al-Zein said.
“We don’t expect much from the new US government, but if President Trump succeeds in creating safe zones, that would be a main step towards solution in Syria,” the rebel spokesman told ARA News.
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