Belgian Minister: safe zones in Syria ‘possible’ as US asks for European support

Western leaders are working to reach an agreement with the US over northeastern Syria, according to a European official.
author_image Nadia Riva

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Western leaders are working to reach an agreement with the US over northeastern Syria, according to a European official, as US President Donald Trump reissued calls for European nations to repatriate Islamic State fighters on the final day of the Munich Security Conference.

While speaking to Kurdistan 24 on Friday, the first day of the conference, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Didier Reynders, noted that there was a need for the international coalition against the Islamic State to “evolve.”

“We know there are some positive evolutions on the ground in Iraq and Syria in the fight against Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State], but Daesh is evolving to other forms of terrorist actions everywhere around the world,” Reynders told Kurdistan 24. “So we need to see how it’s possible to have an evolution in our coalition, at the worldwide level, to fight against terrorist activities.”

At the top of the Belgian minister’s concerns was the US’ decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

“We are in discussion to see if it is possible to organize a safe zone in the northeast part of Syria,” he said, “taking into account the last decision of the US administration to organize the withdrawal from Syria.”

The statement indicates there is an effort by the US to recruit European support for a proposed security zone in liberated areas controlled by the coalition’s allies, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

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Indeed, “senior US lawmakers and military officials are pressing America’s allies in Europe to commit hundreds of troops to create a buffer zone” along Syria’s border with Turkey, Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin reported from Munich on Friday, citing remarks by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina.)

However, on Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to urge European allies to also take back hundreds of Islamic State foreign fighters captured in Syria, warning that the alternative would see US forces release the jihadists back into Syria, and possibly Europe.

“Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing,” argued Trump as he reiterated a US withdrawal from Syria once the “Caliphate” is completely defeated.

The Belgian Minister had previously said he had not received any request from the United States to repatriate Islamic State members.

Related Article: Belgian Minister: No US request to repatriate ISIS members

(Barzan Hassan contributed to this report)