Published: Thu, August 08, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Turkey, US officials resume talks on Syria safe-zone

Turkey, US officials resume talks on Syria safe-zone

Talks that began on August 5 about the establishment of a safe zone in Syria continued with a visiting USA military delegation, Hulusi Akar told reporters in the Turkish capital on Wednesday.

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.

Washington has proposed a two-tiered zone, with a 5-kilometre (three-mile) demilitarized strip bolstered by an additional 9 km cleared of heavy weapons - stretching in total less than half the distance into Syria that Turkey is seeking.

The YPG have been backed by the USA in their fight against Islamic State group militants but are seen as a "terrorist organisation" by Turkey.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar (L) and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Air Force General Tod Wolters, speak at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels, Belgium, June 26, 2019. "S. actions", said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Earlier, Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated threats to attack Syria's northeast region to push back the Syrian Kurdish forces if no agreement was reached on the safe zone, heralding potential new escalations in Syria's civil war, now in its ninth year.

Turkey has said it must have ultimate authority over the safe zone, another point of divergence with the United States.

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Turkish media outlets have often shown images in recent weeks of military convoys heading for the border area, carrying equipment and fighting units.

"When Ankara says it wants to control the 32-km zone, the United States can never agree to that", said Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the US think-tank Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Neither side said whether they had overcome two main points that had divided them.

A joint operations center in Turkey would "coordinate and manage the establishment of the safe zone together".

This latest agreement, however, seems to have brought the USA and Turkey closer together.

The US military delegation arrived in Ankara on 4 August to discuss the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria. "If that isn't possible we have said multiple times that we will do what is necessary".

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