Turkey, US getting closer on Syria safe zone: Çavuşoğlu

Turkey, US getting closer on Syria safe zone: Çavuşoğlu

Sevil ERKUŞ- ANKARA
Turkey, US getting closer on Syria safe zone: Çavuşoğlu

Turkey and the United States are getting closer to an agreement on the details of a planned safe zone in northeast Syria along the Turkish border, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on May 2.

“We are preparing the result we will give to the U.S. regarding their latest offers with all our institutions. We have not agreed on everything, but we are making progress,” he said.

He was referring to meetings in Ankara of Turkish officials with an American delegation headed by U.S. Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey.

Çavuşoğlu underlined that there is a joint task force that deals with a number of topics including U.S. withdrawal from Syria, its decision to decrease the number of soldiers and the planned safe zone, and the U.S. has submitted its written position paper on the safe zone.

“As a result of these meetings, written opinions have begun to be shared. It cannot be said that we agree on every subject,” the top diplomat said. The opinion exchange in the task force brought them closer, he said, and they expect more cooperation in the forthcoming meetings.

Çavuşoğlu also stated that Ankara and Washington have been discussing the date of a visit by the U.S. President Donald Trump to Turkey. 

Trump will attend ceremonies for the anniversary of the Normandy landings in Europe.

“He was reviewing to come just after that, but they say that they want to pay a comprehensive official visit to Turkey one month later instead of a drop-by. The exact date is not yet clear,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Asked if Trump’s possible visit to Turkey indicates that Ankara and Washington found a solution to problems derived from Russian S-400 systems that Turkey wants to purchase, the minister said: “In the course of these meetings, all issues on the agenda such as YPG / PYD, FETÖ, S-400, F-35 will be evaluated. There are problems between the two countries that we cannot agree on. But there are many positive agenda items such as making bilateral trade volume reach $75 billion, removal of taxes for this bid, the signing of a free trade agreement.”

 No immediate alternative to Iranian oil

Recalling that May 2 is the last day of sanction exemptions of the U.S. toward some countries, including Turkey, Çavuşoğlu also said that precautions regarding the sanctions will be taken.

The top diplomat said that he saw some companies concerned about sanctions during his latest visits to in Qatar and Slovakia.

“Germany, U.K. and France are working cooperatively within a mechanism called INSTEX. We are discussing how to establish a mechanism similar to this between us,” he said, adding that the desired point in trade with national currencies has not been reached.

Some issues about the product barter were discussed in the meeting with his Iranian counterpart Cevad Zarif in Qatar, the foreign minister said.

“It is not possible, in the short term, to diversify the source of oil we are importing. Our refineries’ technologies are not suitable to many countries’ crude oil,” Çavuşoğlu said, reiterating his previous remarks on Iraqi petrol being cut out for Turkey’s refineries.

The foreign minister also stressed the necessity of repairing the damaged Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline due to the limited capacity of the pipeline coming from northern Iraq.

“We would need to update the technology of our refineries if we buy oil from other countries, and this would mean closing the refineries for a period, which has a cost,” he said, adding that the latest decision of U.S. is “impacting everyone negatively”.

From Japan to Europe, all countries are “disturbed” by this decision which the “U.S. took unilaterally,” according to Çavuşoğlu.

“The U.S. needs to revise its decision,” he stressed.

Çavuşoğlu, Syria, Trump, safe zone