HEADLINES:

US delegation in southern Turkey for work on center to oversee Syria safe zone: officials

Following agreement between Washington, Ankara
US and Turkish forces conduct a convoy during a joint combined patrol near Manbij, Syria, November 8, 2018. image: US Army/Spc. Zoe Garbarino
2019-08-12

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SULAIMANI — A US delegation has arrived in Turkey’s southern province of Sanliurfa to start work on the establishment of a joint operations center to coordinate a planned safe zone in neighboring Syria, Turkish authorities said on Monday (August 12).

The two NATO allies agreed in talks last week to establish the center that would manage the zone in northern Syria though no agreement has been announced on key details of the zone, including the size of the area in question and the command structure of joint patrols that would be conducted there, according to Reuters.

There has been cautious progress on the center despite other disputes straining bilateral relations, including Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, as well as trials of local US consulate employees in Turkey on terrorism charges.

Work to establish the center has begun and it is expected to become active in coming days, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Twitter. “Within this context, a six-person US delegation has arrived in Sanliurfa with the purpose of preliminary preparation,” it said.

Washington and Ankara have been at odds over plans for northeastern Syria, where US allies on the ground in the battle against Islamic State include the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey considers an enemy and a terrorist group.

The allies have been discussing a safe zone near the Turkish frontier that would be kept free of combatants and heavy weapons, but Turkey wants it to extend more than twice as far into Syrian territory as the United States has proposed.

Turkey has suggested it will act militarily if the United States fails to agree a solution that will safeguard the border.

Turkey says the YPG is an extension in Syria of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since the 1980s.

(NRT Digital Media/Reuters)