Two days after Saudi Arabia’s absence from Friday’s U.S. temporary travel suspension order, President Donald Trump asked the country to join him in trying to create a safe zone in Syria.
Saudi Arabia’s King agreed to Trump’s proposal to implement a safe zone in Syria in a Sunday phone call. Trump’s inclusion of Saudi Arabia in the travel ban might have soured diplomatic relations over Syria, and eventual negotiations on the Iran deal.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus indicated Sunday the list of affected countries could be expanded to include Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Egypt.
The Saudi Press Agency reported after the call that “the view of the two leaders were identical,” on the matter of safe zones. The White House readout of the call also said, “The president requested and the King agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts.”
Trump couched safe zone implementation in Syria as a way to protect the U.S. from prospective infiltration by terrorists posing as refugees.
“I’ll absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people,” he declared in a Thursday interview with ABCNews.
Any plan to establish a safe zone in Syria will require extraordinary diplomacy by Trump and Secretary of State designate Rex Tillerson. The zone will also likely have to be coordinated with the Russian and Turkish governments, who would in turn solicit the acquiescence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Turkey’s foreign ministry tacitly endorsed the plan Thursday saying, “setting up of safe zones is something Turkey has advocated from the start.” A spokesman for the Russian government demurred on the safe-zone proposal saying “it is important that this does not exacerbate the situation with refugees, but probably all the consequences ought to be weighed up.”
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