US, Turkey agree to leave PYD out of ISIS-free zone in Syria
by Merve Aydoğan
ANKARAAug 14, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Merve Aydoğan
Aug 14, 2015 12:00 am
As discussions on establishing a zone free of ISIS militants in northern Syria along the Turkish border continues, sources from the Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday that Ankara and Washington have agreed on the status of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and that it will not be allowed to enter the protected zone. Sources further added that members of the moderate Syrian opposition would be placed there and the PYD is not listed as one of those forces. Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu said Tuesday that not only Turkmens, but also Arabs and others would be placed in the zone.
Sources from the ministry on Wednesday said the PYD has been warned through all possible channels not to enter the zone. Ankara has demanded that the PKK-affiliated PYD does not go west of the Euphrates River, halt its alleged demographic alteration in the area and does not block the passage of Turkmens returning to their towns.
Foreign Ministry sources indicated that the U.S. has the same understanding. Furthermore, while there have been discussions of a pause in the operations against ISIS militants, diplomatic sources confirmed that Turkey is waiting for the U.S. due to coordination logistics. The official said on the condition of anonymity that Turkey and the United States will coordinate operations against ISIS.
Turkey launched its first aerial assaults on ISIS in late July and U.S. fighter jets took off from İncirlik Air Base for the first time late on Wednesday and began their first airstrikes on militant positions. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu denied that the U.S. has started to use İncirlik.
A contingent of six F-16s and 300 American personnel arrived at the air base last weekend preceded by the first unmanned airstrike from İncirlik last week, and it has been confirmed by officials that the number of fighter jets will increase in the coming days and a joint operation will begin at the proper stage. As the U.S.-led coalition begins to use İncirlik Air Base, it has been indicated that the U.K., France and other countries have also been allowed to make use of the air base along with the other air bases against ISIS and other relevant terrorist organizations.Regarding the current status of the train-and-equip program, agreed to by the U.S. and Turkey in February for moderate Syrian opposition forces, officials have said that the number of those being trained is rapidly increasing. The first group of 54 soldiers who trained in Kırşehir province in central Anatolia as part of the train-and-equip program completed their training and crossed into Syria on July 12. Sources confirmed that the current training is being held with double the number from the first set. It has further been said that there are seven countries cooperating in the train-and-equip program along with Turkey and the U.S.
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