Merkel calls for ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria

 Russian Sukhoi Su-24 frontline bomber takes off from the Hemeimeem airbase in the Latakia province, Syria. © Dmitriy Vinogradov
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed the controversial idea of imposing a no-fly zone over northern Syria to alleviate the refugee crisis as the country plays along with Ankara’s demands for the creation of a “buffer area” along its border.

“In the current situation it would be helpful, if there could be such an area, where none of the parties are allowed to launch aerial attacks, that is to say, a kind of no-fly zone,” Merkel told the daily Stuttgarter Zeitung, when asked by the publication about opening up areas to host refugees.

Echoing a long-standing call from Turkey to establish a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, Merkel stressed that while it is impossible to negotiate with terrorists from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), she said it would be helpful if the “anti-Assad coalition and the Assad-supporters ... come to an agreement.”

Berlin’s rhetoric, which has been aimed at appeasing Turkey for months, goes against NATO policy. The body turned down the no-fly zone proposal as late as last week.

The Alliance's Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg stressed that NATO will leave the issue of enforcing a potential no-fly zone over Syria to the US anti-IS coalition. Stoltenberg’s reaction last Thursday came after Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, renewed calls for the establishment of a secure zone in Syria, arguing it was the only way to deal with the influx of migrants and refugees.

Russia, which is leading an effective air campaign against terrorists in Syria, has on numerous occasions warned that creating such a zone will aid only terrorists and divide the war-torn country. While a no-fly zone would ensure that aircraft are not allowed to enter the protected air space, it would not, however, prevent the continuation of hostilities on the ground.

READ MORE: ‘Huge step forward’: Russia’s FM spox Zakharova on Syria peace commitments and challenges

On Monday, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov insisted that his country will continue striking jihadist positions.

“Airstrikes on terrorist groups’ facilities will be continued in any case, even if the Syrian ceasefire agreement is reached. Because the point is that this ceasefire should apply to those who are really interested in the beginning of the negotiating process, and not to the terrorists,” Gatilov said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Yet Merkel continues to side with Ankara, believing that Erdogan’s proposed solution is the only way out of the refugee crisis.

“I can totally understand Turkish politicians reproaching us Europeans for not being able to explain not taking refugees in Europe while at the same time urging them to keep their Turkish borders open for further needy Syrian refugees,” she said.

Merkel’s call for the creation of the no-fly zone is supported by German military and political heavyweights, journalist Michael Opperskalski told RT. Yet, the journalist noted, Merkel faces tough opposition in Berlin.

“She is supported by Foreign Minister Steinmeier, the German foreign intelligence service – BND, and other high ranking government responsible forces,” Opperskalski noted, stressing that some see it as part of the “anti-Russian campaign.”

He explained that Merkel and her government are “pressured” by Turkey to advocate the no-fly zone, “to follow the Turkish regime interest due to the refugee crisis.” The second reason behind Merkel's rhetoric he says is Berlin’s “open agenda” for a “regime change by all means in Syria.”

The call for the buffer zone also stems from the massive Syrian army advances in Northern Syria against terrorist groups, aided by the Russian air campaign, which makes both Germany and Turkey “very nervous,” the journalist says.

“They are not interested in peace, but they want to stop the advance by the forces on the ground,” Opperskalski believes.

Calling Berlin’s move a “big and very dirty game,” the German journalist noted that the military establishment in the country is being split on the matter, with some being “very much against” the creation of a no-fly zone.

Forces who argue against the move say “it will not be useful as fight against ISIS,” with some arguing, as Opperskalski notes, that “Russian intervention is the real force opening the peace perspective for Syria.”

“The government and the institutions are getting more and more divided on the course of the direction of the activity, and especially when it comes to possible confrontation on political and other levels with Russia, and on perspective of the regime change in Syria,” Opperskalski told RT.