Russia advises Donald Trump to show caution with his plan for Syrian safe zones

Kremlin says it has not been consulted on potential strategy, which predecessor Barack Obama worried could escalate the US’s military involvement in the war 

Thursday 26 January 2017 15:51 GMT
Russia says it is important that the plan does not ‘exacerbate the situation with refugees’
Russia says it is important that the plan does not ‘exacerbate the situation with refugees’ (Getty)

Russia has thrown cold water on US President Donald Trump’s proposals to create safe zones for civilians displaced by conflict in Syria.

“I’ll absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people,” the President said in an interview with ABC on Wednesday without providing further details.

According to a leaked copy of what is believed to be the draft of an upcoming executive order by Mr Trump, the State and Defence departments will be ordered to produce a plan within the next three months on how to set up safe zones in the war-torn country.

“The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defence, is directed within 90 days of the date of this order to produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement,” the draft order said.

President Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama resisted Republican calls to set up safe zones on the grounds that such a move – which could involve ground troops and extra US aircraft if a “no fly zone” is created – would draw the country deeper into Syria’s complex civil war.

An increased US military presence in the country could also cause clashes with Russian forces, which operate in the country at the request of ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, a Kremlin spokesperson urged caution on the part of the US, adding that Russia had not yet been consulted on any safe zone plans.

“Our American partners did not consult with us. It’s a sovereign decision,“ Dmitry Peskov said.

“It is important that this [plan] does not exacerbate the situation with refugees, but probably all the consequences ought to be weighed up.”

The White House has not yet made direct contact with the Kremlin, Mr Peskov added.

The safe zone plan is part of a larger new directive aimed at protecting the US from terrorism. The legislation – which Mr Trump is expected to sign in the next few days – also includes a temporary ban on refugees fleeing war and conflict in Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries.

Reuters contributed to this report

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