The Russian foreign minister has censured Turkey’s plan to establish a buffer zone in Syria, saying such a proposal contradicts the international law and will heighten tensions in the region.
"To our knowledge, the Turks have discussed with NATO their intention to create ISIL (Daesh)-free zones in the territory of Syria. Indeed, that will violate every principle of international law and will lead to a substantial, qualitative escalation [of tensions]," Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the Russian daily, Moskovsky Komsomolets, on Wednesday.
The buffer zone is planned to cover a border area between two Kurdish enclaves, "a combination of whose strength Turkey deems absolutely unacceptable for itself at least because that will block Turkey's ability to provide supplies to militants in Syria and to receive contraband from them," he said.
The Turkish government has long been pushing for a buffer zone or no-fly zone inside Syria that stretches 110 kilometers (68 miles) long and 28 kilometers (17 miles) wide between the southern Turkish towns of Karkamis and Oncupinar.
However, opponents say Ankara is seeking to intensify its crackdown on minority Kurds, who are targeted in the Turkish army operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.
Lavrov further accused Ankara of holding secret negotiations with Daesh on smuggling, saying, “They’re discussing various actions in the current conditions under our Aerospace Forces’ airstrikes seriously limiting their traditional routes of smuggling.”
Russia launched its campaign against Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria last September upon a request from the Damascus government. The air raids have expedited the advances of Syrian forces against militants.
Turkey has been among the main supporters of the militant groups operating in Syria, with reports saying that Ankara actively trains and arms the Takfiri terrorists there and facilitates their safe passage into the conflict-ridden Arab country.
Turkey has also been accused on numerous occasions of being involved in illegal oil trade with Daesh. Russia has recently released pictures and videos purportedly showing the movement of oil tankers from Daesh-controlled areas in Syria toward Turkey.