Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has proposed a ‘no-fly zone’ over its border with Syria. Davutoglu appealed to international powers on Monday following a Russian violation of Turkish airspace near the Syrian border. Russia’s involvement with air strikes in Syria began just last week. Russia, however, claimed the incursion was “a mistake”. Davutoglu’s response confirmed it would enforce its rules of engagement should violation occur again.
Turkish propositions for a ‘no-fly zone’ stem from pressures to protect civilians fleeing the Islamic State and the Assad regime across the Turkish border. Turkish officials propose the creation of a 100km long safe-zone that would allow displaced Syrians to return to their homeland without fear of persecution. Davutoglu said he would work with the US and the international community to establish this “safe area”. There are more than 1.8 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey escaping the war in Syria. “Turkey has spent $6 billion [on the crisis]… and no one is helping us”. It is the responsibility of the international community to do more to curb the flow of migrants, Davutoglu stated. He criticised the permanent members of the UN Security Council for failing to propose any “strong decisions” in resolving the Syrian crisis.
Davutoglu did not rule out the possibility of setting Turkish troops in the Syrian safe-zone. “If there is enough power of moderate forces in Syria, there will not be any necessity for other countries including Turkey to send any ground troops”. Russia has contested the suggestion of a no-fly zone. “I think we fundamentally will not allow this scenario”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich stated on Monday in response to Russia’s position on the matter. Its imposition would infringe on Syrian sovereignty, and contravene Russia’s future operations in the region. Russia’s opposition as a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council makes it unlikely the measures will pass if taken to vote.
Turkey is facing the long-term challenge of accommodating displaced Syrian refugees. Its open-door policy towards Syrian refugees accounts for approximately 45% of all refugees from the country. Many are finding that life in Turkey is not easy. Refugees are not granted special work permits. Many work illegally, earning less than their Turkish counterparts. Authorities are struggling to integrate a large population that does not speak Turkish and has little prospects for returning to Syria in the near future. Costs are spiralling out of control, as refugee numbers do not show signs of easing. The imposition of a no-fly zone would provide the hope of curbing the influx of refugees arriving on Turkish borders.