As NATO Holds Emergency Meeting, Turkey and U.S. Establish Creeping No-Fly Zone over Syria

Ambassadors of NATO’s 28 members held an emergency meeting July 28 in Brussels, at the request of NATO-member Turkey. The topic was to seek NATO solidarity for Turkey following attacks by ISIL and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) inside Turkey, especially a July 20 terror attack which left 32 dead. The result of the NATO meeting was a joint statement expressing “strong solidarity” with Turkey and saying the security of NATO is “indivisible,” but not much else—at least as far as is known publicly. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking yesterday ahead of the meeting, urged Ankara not to cut off talks with the PKK, however. “Force will never solve the conflict in the long term,” Stoltenberg said.

Even as NATO was meeting, a “creeping” no-fly zone was being created over Syria, under cover of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It is “creeping,” because there will be no UN Security Council sanction for a no-fly zone, given that Russia would oppose it. A U.S. official confirmed the July 25 Hurriyet report that the United States and Turkey have agreed to clear ISIL militants from northern Syria by forming an “ISIL-free zone.”

“The goal is to establish an ISIL-free zone and ensure greater security and stability along Turkey’s border with Syria,” the unnamed official told Agence France-Presse, coyly. Fred Hof, a former advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was more direct in comments to the New York Times:

“At least in principle, it creates an area where people who are trained and equipped in Turkey can be inserted in Syria without opposition, where they can joint up with existing units who are fighting ISIL.”

Hof did not elaborate that such U.S.- and Turkish-trained forces would also be charge with overthrowing Syria’s Assad government.

The latest understanding is part of the agreement by Turkey to allow the U.S. to use Turkey’s Incirlik military base to launch air attacks on ISIL in Syria. The ISIL-free zone will be 98 km long and 40 km wide and situated on a line from Mare to Jarablus. Syrian aircraft will be forbidden to fly in the zone. The plan foresees the deployment of Free Syrian Army (FSA) units—supposedly “moderate” oppositionists who are also out to overthrow the Assad government in Syria—to the area if ISIL is completely cleared from that particular zone, which would both prevent the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) from further expanding its influence towards the West and create a safe environment to shelter Syrians fleeing violence or those who want to return to their homelands.

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