Despite a supposed ‘ceasefire’ in Syria, the daily toll of casualties continues to climb and the international hand-wringing over how to protect civilians in Syria goes on. Against this backdrop, the contentious idea of safe zones is enjoying something of a renaissance. They have been mooted since 2012, when Turkey called for a protected zone on its border with northwest Syria, and support for safe zones or no-fly zones has waxed and waned ever since.
The Trump administration has now proposed a new iteration of the policy. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced in March that the US would work to establish ‘interim zones of stability’. This follows Donald Trump’s promise on the campaign trail of a ‘big, beautiful safe zone’ in Syria. Tillerson’s more technical approach is still in the ‘ideas’ phase, but his comments suggest that US moves to create ‘safe areas’ to facilitate returning refugees are increasingly likely.