By ISW Syria Team and Syria Direct
Turkish President Recep Erdogan reiterated that the “ultimate goal” of Turkey in Operation Euphrates Shield is the establishment of a five-thousand square kilometer ‘safe zone’ that includes Al-Bab, Manbij, and Ar-Raqqa City in Northern Syria during a speech on February 12. Erdogan stated that the proposed “terrorist-free zone” would require the implementation of a no-fly zone, noting that he had discussed the issue with both the U.S. and Russia. The statement came after pro-regime forces supported by Russia and Lebanese Hezbollah effectively completed the encirclement of ISIS in Al-Bab in line with a predetermined agreement between Russia and Turkey. Meanwhile, preparations continued for the next round of Geneva Talks on the Syrian Civil War scheduled to begin on February 23. The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) approved a watered-down delegation to the talks that replaced several key armed opposition representatives with civilian members of the exiled political opposition as well as delegates from domestic opposition factions backed by Russia that lack legitimacy on the ground. The potential for successful talks also remains muted amidst continued calls by armed opposition groups for the full implementation of a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian access, and prisoner releases agreed upon at the Astana Talks on January 23 – 24.
These graphics mark the latest installment of our Syria SITREP Map made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria Direct. The graphic depicts significant recent developments in the Syrian Civil War. The control of terrain represented on the graphic is accurate as of February 16, 2017.