Turkey, US Progress on Joint 'Safe Zone' in Northern Syria

Erika Holt
August 10, 2019

The deal was reached days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the Turkish military was about to launch an assault on USA -backed Kurdish forces in Syria, who were integral to the battlefield success against the terror group.

After three days of talks in Ankara, the two countries said the safe zone on Syria's northeast border with Turkey should be a "peace corridor", and that every effort would be made so that Syrians displaced by war can return to their country.

On Wednesday, Turkish military officials and their U.S. counterparts agreed that the safe zone in northern Syria would be a "peace corridor" for displaced Syrians to return home.

Turkey has also said it must have ultimate authority over the zone, another point of divergence.

Aldar Xelil, the senior Kurdish politician, said he did not expect Washington and its allies to back away from helping the SDF combat Islamic State sleeper cells to secure the region.

The US-Turkish "aggression" represented "a unsafe escalation and a threat to peace and stability in the area", it added.

That put the United States in a hard position as a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally of Turkey but also a supporter of the YPG as its main frontline partner against the Daesh group.

The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, a designated terror group in the USA and Turkey.

A US defense official confirmed to ABC News that the two countries reached the agreement to address Turkey's security concerns, but declined to provide details.

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But Ankara views it as a "terrorist" offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for the past 35 years.

The deal reached on Wednesday has averted that crisis, for now. Turkey had also requested ultimate authority over the area, control that the US would be unlikely to grant.

A senior Syrian Kurdish official gave the Turkish-US agreement a guarded welcome.

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

Eastern Euphrates and that region are largely controlled by the Kurdish forces with the presence of US troops and military advisors.

Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday that talks with the US aimed at averting the need for a Turkish military intervention into northern Syria had been "positive" and the opinions of the USA delegation was "closer" to Turkish position.

The deal to create a safe zone in the northeast comes as fighting in northwest Syria resumed after efforts to salvage a Russia- and Turkey-backed cease-fire crumbled.

Renewed fighting in northwest Syria after a brief ceasefire has triggered "total panic", a top United Nations official said Thursday, warning that a possible regime offensive in the area was "like playing with fire".

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