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Syria: Russia and Turkey cautious over Trump’s ‘safe zones’

RUSSIA and Turkey reacted cautiously to US plans for refugee “safe zones” in Syria and neighbouring countries yesterday.

New US President Donald Trump trailed the idea in an interview with ABC TV on Wednesday — part of his policy of closing his borders to those in need.

Though characteristically scant on details, Mr Trump’s plan would represent an escalation of US involvement in Syria and had echoes of election opponent Hillary Clinton’s mooted no-fly zones that would have brought the US into conflict with Russia.

News agency Reuters reported a leaked White House document ordering the State Department, in conjunction with the Defence Department, to produce a plan for within 90 days for the area, from which refugees would either be repatriated or settled in other countries.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Washington hadn’t consulted Russia on the subject, adding: “It’s important to make sure that this does not further aggravate the situation with refugees.”

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said: “What is important is to see the result of these studies.”

Most internally displaced Syrian refugees are hosted in government-run camps, with millions more in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Many have made the dangerous sea crossing to Greece, and Germany has taken in over a million Syrian refugees.

“I think that Europe has made a tremendous mistake by allowing these millions of people to go into Germany and various other countries,” Mr Trump told ABC, prattling: “I don’t want that to happen here.”

On Wednesday US Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard returned from Damascus, confirming she had met Syrian President Bashar Assad and reiterating her view that: “Our counterproductive regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people.

“I was asked: ‘Why are the United States and its allies helping al-Qaida and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria?’”

On Monday, Ms Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Bill to Congress, which would outlaw government funding for arms, training or other aid to insurgents in Syria and elsewhere.

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