Syria rebels await action from Trump on safe zones

President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents have long demanded safe zones to protect civilians who have fled government air strikes. (File Photo: AFP)

Syrian rebels urged 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.

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.

President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents have long demanded safe zones to protect civilians who have fled government air strikes and bombardment of rebel-held areas.

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 Hezbollah, would also oppose any US intervention.

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.”

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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