Turkey: US efforts “formal” so far to establish a safe area in Syria

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — US efforts to establish a safe area in northern Syria have so far been “formal”, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, accusing Washington of stalling.

Turkey and the United States, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), agreed last month to establish a safe zone in Syria to keep Kurdish fighters out of the Turkish border. They began joint patrols in the area on Sunday.

“There have been some joint patrols, yes, but the steps that have been taken otherwise … are only a formality,” Çavuşoوlu told reporters in Ankara.

The aim of the safe zone is to separate the Turkish border and the Syrian YPG-controlled areas.

The Kurdish units, classified by Ankara as a “terrorist” organization, are the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main partner of the international coalition led by Washington against the Islamic State.

He warned the United States of any delay in removing the border positions of the YPG, noting that his country had previously threatened to be ready to launch unilateral operations against the Kurds.

Turkey fears that Manbij’s deal with the United States could be repeated last year.

Turkey and the United States agreed in May 2018 on a road map that includes the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij in northern Syria. But Turkey says the withdrawal did not take place as agreed.

Military officials at the US Central Command and the US European Command are scheduled to meet their Turkish counterparts on Tuesday, the Pentagon said on Twitter.

The military officials will discuss “future support” for the US-Turkey Joint Operations Center in southeast Turkey and other “important activities,” according to Centcom.

Hande Furat wrote in Hurriyet newspaper on Tuesday that Turkish officials want a 440-kilometer-long area along the border, and are not satisfied that the first phase of the agreement includes only 120 kilometers.

Furat said Sunday’s joint patrols were “on offer only” by the Americans, and that Turkish soldiers wanted the area inside Syria to be deeper than five kilometers.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump are due to discuss the issue later this month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.


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