Trump to ‘absolutely do safe zones in Syria’

US President Donald Trump speaking to ABC's David Muir

Speaking to ABC’s David Muir in his first television interview, US President Donald Trump claimed, “Europe had made a big mistake by admitting millions of refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries”, and insisted, “I don’t want that to happen here [in the United States].”

Trump said the millions of refugees created by the six-year-long war in Syria should stay in “safe zones in the country” rather than go to Europe, “I’ll absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people”, he pledged. The president is expected to sign an executive order containing his proposal today, which includes a stricter visa process for several countries.

Asked by Muir whether he was introducing a “Muslim ban” Trump responded: “No it’s not the Muslim ban. But it’s countries that have tremendous terror. It’s countries that we’re going to be spelling out in a little while in the same speech. And it’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems. Our country has enough problems without allowing people to come in who, in many cases or in some cases, are looking to do tremendous destruction.”

Safe zones in Syria was a contentious topic during President Obama’s administration and led to a rise in tensions between the Turkish government and the US. Turkey had long supported the idea of safe zones in the north of Syria citing “the terror threat” along its border, but this idea didn’t resonate with the previous administration in the US. Ankara was also at odds with Washington on the issue of Syrian Kurds; while the US has worked with them in the fight against the Islamic State group, Turkey has maintained they are terrorists. The autonomous administration in the north of Syria has rejected the idea of safe zones saying it is a pretext for Turkey’s expansionist policies in the region.