Tuesday, 12 November, 2019

Turkey and USA agree on joint operations center in northern Syria

Turkish troops head to the Syrian border in Karkamis Turkey Aug. 27 2016. Turkey on Wednesday sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels retake the key Islamic State-held town of Jarablus and to contain the expansion of Syria's Kurds in FILE- Turkish troops head to the Syrian border in Karkamis Turkey Aug. 27 2016
Patty Aguilar | 08 August, 2019, 12:45

The announcement on Wednesday came on the third day of talks between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, who have been stuck in a deadlock for months over the size of the zone and who would command it.

The proposed zone aims to secure a strip of land stretching more than 400 km (250 miles) along Syria's northeastern border with Turkey, much of it controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia that fought with USA support against Islamic State militants.

Turkey has demanded that any safe zone be free from Kurdish forces, who it considers terrorists.

Earlier, Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated threats to attack Syria's northeast region to push back the Syrian Kurdish forces if no agreement was reached on the safe zone, heralding potential new escalations in Syria's civil war, now in its ninth year.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Erdogan told reporters: "it was important that a step be taken east of the Euphrates (river) and this is being taken together with the Americans".

Talks that began on August 5 about the establishment of a safe zone in Syria continued with a visiting US military delegation, Hulusi Akar told reporters in the Turkish capital on Wednesday.

A statement from the defence ministry said the two sides had agreed to "implement without delay the first measures aimed at eliminating Turkey's concerns".

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Washington had proposed a two-tiered safe zone, with a five-kilometre demilitarised strip bolstered by an additional nine kilometres cleared of heavy weapons - stretching in total less than half the distance into Syria that Turkey is seeking. It was unclear whether progress had been made on considerable differences between the two governments on the size and patrolling of a safe zone.

Turkey has also said it must have ultimate authority over the zone, another point of divergence with the US. It stood at 5.487 at 1604 GMT.

"Our plans on the Syria safe zone and the deployment of our troops in the field have been completed", Akar added. "S. actions", said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Given that negotiations had "flatlined", he said Turkey was likely to act unilaterally and pointed to several potential military targets including areas around the northern Syrian town of Manbij and the border towns of Tel Abyad or Kobane.

Turkey and the United States agreed to establish a centre to coordinate joint operations and the formation of a safe zone in Syria, the Turkish Defence Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Defence Department report warned about a revival of ISIS in Syria's northeast, saying U.S. -backed Kurdish groups were not equipped to handle the resurgent jihadist cells without U.S. support.

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