ANKARA (News Agency): Turkish and U.S. officials will continue to discuss a planned safe zone in northern Syria, Turkish military officials said on Thursday after Ankara warned that it would launch a cross-border operation if a deal was not reached.
Following a U.S. decision to withdraw from northern Syria, the two NATO allies agreed to create a sanctuary in the region that would be cleared of the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara sees as a terrorist organization.
Turkey has been infuriated by U.S. support for the YPG – the main U.S. ally on the ground during the United States’ fight against Islamic State militants – and has demanded that Washington sever ties.
After U.S. special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey held talks with Turkish officials, Turkey said on Wednesday it had run “out of patience” with Washington and warned that it would carry out a military operation in the region if an agreement on the safe zone was not reached.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the United States was stalling progress on the safe zone, just as it did with a joint roadmap agreed to clear the northern Syrian town of Manbij of the YPG last year.
At a briefing in Ankara on Thursday, Turkish military officials said talks on the planned safe zone with the United States would continue, but reiterated that Turkey’s expectations on the Manbij roadmap had not been met.
“Work is planned to continue in the coming period. We cannot share details as efforts are under way. Our aims are clear. The Turkish army is the only force capable of doing this,” one of the officials said regarding the safe zone.
“Despite all our work, the end-goal of the Manbij Roadmap, which is for the area to be cleared of the YPG, for heavy arms to be collected, and a local administration to be formed, has not been reached. There are still around 1,000 terrorists in the region,” the official said, referring to the YPG.
Earlier this year, President Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish military would launch an offensive into northern Syria to clear the region of YPG forces, a move that would have marked Turkey’s third cross-border sally in as many years.
However, the operation was later put on hold after President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of the region. Turkey has since said that Washington has stymied progress and warned that it would mount its offensive if necessary.