After a busy media week, the term “safe zone” with regards to Syria is back in the headlines. It’s not a new concept; back in August 2015 our own Trevor Keck wrote about them in an Intercross post highlighting a joint ICRC/Interaction Outcomes Document, Trapped in Conflict. But what does that actually mean for humanitarian actors, those fleeing and do they actually work?
For this week’s roundup, we take a look at some of the conversations and discussions happening around safe zones as portrayed by the media and other online outlets.**
Tim Lister writes, “Such zones are meant to be areas where civilians can live without fear of being targeted by any party in Syria's long civil war, protected by the international community. The Trump administration sees safe zones as the way to stem and even reverse the migration of Syrians to Europe and elsewhere.”
Nathalie Weizmann looks at safe areas through the lens of the law. She writes that in addition to political, military and financial considerations, safe areas elicit a number of questions under international humanitarian law (IHL) and from a humanitarian point of view.
Safe Zones in Syria (Huffington Post)
David L. Phillips, the director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights weighs the benefits and risks in this HuffPo piece. He writes, “The devil is in the details. Where will safe zones be established? How will safe zones be enforced? Which local fighters can the US rely on?”
The Latest: Turkey awaits US plan for Syria safe zones (Fox News/AP)
Fox News reports that a Turkish official says his country has always supported the idea of safe zones in Syria but would need to review any U.S. plans before commenting. U.S. President Donald Trump is directing the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plan for safe zones in Syria within 90 days, according to a draft executive order he is expected to sign this week. Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu told reporters that Turkey has "seen the reports on a request for a study on the safe zone," adding that "what is important is to see the result of these studies."
On NPR’s Morning Edition, Alice Fordham and Tom Bowman discuss with host Ari Shapiro the reconsiderations of safe zones in Syria. “President Trump has revived discussion about implementing military "safe zones" in Syria, an idea from the early days of the civil war. But fencing off areas in Syria might not make sense given the current reality of the conflict, and it would be a challenge for the U.S. and its allies to put them into place.”
And a few older articles that still provide relevant perspectives:
The Hidden Danger of Safe Zones in Syria (The Atlantic)
Dominic Tierney writes that David Ignatius calls for creating protected areas to save civilians. But that may put the vulnerable at even greater risk.
Syria Safe Zones another Stalled Debate (Chatham House)
Author Tim Eaton argues a buffer zone, or a safe haven, would require intervention to ensure that such fighting is brought to an end. The UN-recognized designation of a safe haven would also require a UN Security Council resolution, but this is unlikely, as any resolution would almost certainly be blocked.
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**The usual Intercross disclaimer: Just because something is featured here, doesn't mean we endorse or agree with it, and the views expressed on the platforms we're highlighting don't necessarily represent those of the ICRC.**