Agreement with US on Syrian safe zone 'very good start'

Published 09.08.2019 00:16

Turkey's foreign minister Thursday called the most recent talks, completed Wednesday with U.S. officials concerning the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria, a "very good start" for the launch of the process and will eventually provide peace in the region. "We can describe yesterday's agreement as a very good start," Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told an Ankara press conference on the sidelines of the 11th Ambassadors' Conference in Turkey's capital. On Wednesday, Turkish military officials and their U.S. counterparts agreed that a safe zone in northern Syria would be a "peace corridor" for displaced Syrians longing to return home.

Also, both sides agreed on the immediate implementation of measures to address Turkey's security concern.

A Joint Operations Center in Turkey to coordinate and manage the establishment of the safe zone was planned during the meeting, a move that appeared to reduce the chance of imminent Turkish military action. Meanwhile, Çavuşoğlu warned that Turkey would not allow the safe zone efforts with the U.S. to be stalled like the Manbij road map. If efforts to find common ground with the U.S. prove unsuccessful, Ankara would have to create a safe zone in Syria on its own, said Turkey's Foreign Ministry last Friday. The Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of the PKK and its Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), terrorists from the city to stabilize the region, which is located in the northern part of Syria's Aleppo province. Turkey expects the creation of a 32-kilometer safe zone in northern Syria and has stressed that it wants the YPG terror group cleared from the region. Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria, operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, to purge the region of terrorist groups, most notably the PKK and the YPG.

Turkey had long signaled a possible offensive in areas held by the YPG east of the Euphrates. However, last December the government decided to postpone the operation after U.S. President Donald Trump decided that Washington, the main backer of the terrorist group, would withdraw its troops from Syria. The withdrawal decision was quickly interpreted as an intention to halt U.S. support for the YPG, which Turkey sees as a terrorist organization. Yet, in the face of mounting hints that the country will maintain its support to the terrorist organization and contradictory statements from officials on the pullout process, officials from Ankara and Washington have been discussing setting up a 32-kilometer-deep safe zone to ease Turkey's security concerns.



The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also spoke on the issue yesterday, saying that it is not the magnanimity of the U.S. to have positive developments regarding the safe zone in Syria. "It is unacceptable for Turkey to compromise on an issue that it is already right in," he said, adding that a safe zone in the region should provide security for Turkey, not YPG terrorists. He further stated that the conditions of the safe zone, especially in terms of its length and depth, should be in accordance with Turkey's terms. "The U.S. should not contradict the ethics of the alliance," Bahçeli said, indicating that the country should have some distance in its relationship with the terrorist organizations, referring to the YPG.

"The safe zone will be the first step for the Syrian refugees that we host to return their hometowns," he added. Bahçeli also expressed that by demanding a safe zone, Turkey showed once again that it is siding with the victims, peace and brotherhood.

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