Jul 24 2019

Turkey not satisfied by U.S. proposal for safe zone in northern Syria

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday said Turkey was running out of patience with the United States in talks to set up what it calls a safe zone in northern Syria and remove Syrian Kurdish force the area.

Çavuşoğlu’s comments follow three days of talks between Turkish and U.S. officials on Syria. The U.S. envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, arrived in the Turkish capital Ankara over the weekend to discuss the long-planned zone, east of the River Euphrates. 

Turkey wants a safe zone at least 30 km deep with Turkish forces in full control, while the United States favours a 10 km-deep area with no permanent Turkish troop presence. The zone is meant to provide a buffer between Turkey and parts of northern Syria controlled by the Syrian Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

"In the days ahead, we want to reach an agreement either with a U.S. proposal that satisfies us, or our (own) proposal. We approved the roadmap with (U.S Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo on June 4, 2018. It was to be completed in 90 days and we were to pass through to the east of the Euphrates. There should be no delay. We have run out of patience,” left-wing nationalist Aydınlık newspaper quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying. 

Çavuşoğlu said Kurdish forces were continually gaining strength in the region and the United States was supplying them with weapons. The YPG made up the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance that, helped by U.S. air support, defeated Islamic State in Syria. But Turkey considers the YPG a threat to its national security.

"The size of the buffer zone, who will control it and how the YPG will be removed from the region are three sensitive issues for us," pro-government Habertürk news site quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying.

The Tukish Defence Ministry on Tuesday said progress was being made on discussions on the creation of a safe zone.

The U.S. Department of State, in a statement released on Wednesday, said Jeffrey’s  meeting with Turkish officials on Syria had been “forthright, positive, and productive.” The statement said that Ankara and Washington would continue to exchange views on mutual concerns in Syria and continue their discussions.

Turkey has increased its military presence along the Syrian border, signalling the start of a possible assault on the YPG, which it sees as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey for more than three decades.