Preparations for an operations center between Washington and Ankara to establish a safe zone in Syria have begun, Turkey's National Defense Ministry announced Tuesday.
The ministry said in a statement that efforts are ongoing for the Joint Operations Center to enter service in the province of Şanlıurfa, southeastern Turkey, as part of the safe zone in northern Syria planned in coordination with the U.S.
On Monday, a six-member U.S. team arrived in Şanlıurfa province to work for the center's establishment.
The ministry underlined that efforts were underway toward the center's establishment and operation "as soon as possible."
Turkish and U.S. military officials on Aug. 7 agreed to set up a safe zone and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians, who are longing to return their home. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center.
The agreement also envisaged to set up necessary security measures to address Turkey's security concerns.
The officials also planned for a Joint Operations Center to be established in Turkey to coordinate and manage the establishment of the safe zone.
Turkey expects the creation of a 32-kilometer safe zone in northern Syria, which must be cleared of the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG). Ankara has warned that if the establishment of such a zone is delayed, it will take cross-border military action to remove the terrorist threat at its southern border.
The U.S. has primarily partnered with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella organization in northeastern Syria in the anti-Daesh fight. The SDF is led by the YPG, a designated terrorist organization in the U.S. and Turkey.
Turkey strongly opposes the YPG's presence in Manbij, which has been a major sticking point in strained Turkey-U.S. relations due to the latter's support for the YPG under the pretext of fighting Daesh. The U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite its NATO ally's security concerns.
To reduce tensions, Turkey and the U.S. agreed on a road map in June 2018 foreseeing the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij and installing joint Turkish-American patrols, which began in November. However, the process has been sluggish as the terrorist group was still present in the city despite the three-month timetable set for implementing the deal.
Turkey previously carried out two cross-border operations west of the Euphrates River, Operation Euphrates Shield launched in August 2016 and Operation Olive Branch in January 2018, to drive terrorist groups, including the YPG and Daesh, from its borders.