US ‘actively engaging with Turkey’ on Syria safe zone

US ‘actively engaging with Turkey’ on Syria safe zone

WASHINGTON
US ‘actively engaging with Turkey’ on Syria safe zone

The United States is in active contact with Turkey on the formation of a possible safe zone in northern Syria, a State Department official said on Feb. 19.

"We are actively engaging with Turkey on this, and that is part of our efforts to ensure a safe withdrawal of United States forces and a stabilized northeast Syria," Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino told a press conference.

Washington takes Ankara's "legitimate security concerns seriously," Palladino added.

"We take them into account in our activities and we have ongoing coordination. We're not going to discuss specifics on these talks, but they continue," he said.

Palladino said the withdrawal of troops is a "tactical change, but not a change in our mission".

In December, U.S. President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that the U.S. would be withdrawing all of its troops from Syria and said ISIL had been defeated in the country.

Since then, however, no troops have been withdrawn, and the Pentagon confirmed last month that additional troops were being sent to protect American forces and equipment as they prepare to leave.

Turkey has repeatedly raised security concerns after the announced U.S. troop withdrawal, saying the pullout would give room to the PYD/YPG, a group supported and armed by the U.S. but deemed as an ofshoot of the illegal PKK by Turkey. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

United States, Syria, withdrawal, Turkey, US State Department