Preparations begin with US delegation for Syria joint operations center

Preparations begin with US delegation for Syria joint operations center

Preparations begin with US delegation for Syria joint operations center

Preparations for a joint operations center overseeing a safe zone in Syria have begun as the first U.S. delegation arrived in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, the Defense Ministry has said.

“Works have been progressing to activate the Joint Operations Center to-be established in Şanlıurfa, within the scope of the planned safe zone in coordination with the U.S., in Syria’s north,” the ministry said in a written statement on Aug. 13.

“The infrastructure set up has begun with the U.S. delegation of six, and critical functions’ installation have been provided,” the ministry’s statement read.

The ministry once again put emphasis on the timespan of the establishment, saying “delays are not being allowed.”
“Works are ongoing without allowing delay, to establish the Joint Operations Center and the commencement of activities, as soon as possible,” the ministry stressed.

The first U.S. soldiers tasked to perform their duties at the Joint Operations Center arrived in Şanlıurfa on Aug. 12 to kick off the preliminary preparations for the center’s establishment.

“The center is planned to be activated in the following days,” the Defense Ministry had said in a statement after the U.S. delegation arrived.

In addition, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have started operating in the region, the ministry said in a separate statement.

The military level bilateral talks between Turkey and the U.S. kicked off on Aug. 5 as officials discussed the formation and details of the planned safe zone.

The three-day-long talks concluded on Aug. 7 as Turkey and U.S. agreed on the establishment of a Joint Operations Center in Turkey for the coordination and management of the planned safe zone in northeastern Syria.

The deal aims to maintain security in the area and provide stability in the region, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had said.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also underlined Turkey’s determination on not allowing a terror corridor in the country’s south. “We conveyed [to U.S. officials] our determination to take all necessary precautions,” he had said.

Furthermore, Turkey has repeatedly expressed its security concerns regarding the YPG presence in the region, insisting on the withdrawal of all YPG troops from the safe zone and all their facilities destroyed.

Ankara believes the YPG is the Syria branch of the illegal PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU. Ankara wants the YPG to withdraw from the border area in the planned safe zone, while Washington wants guarantees that Kurdish Syrians, whom the United States allied within the campaign to defeat ISIL in Syria, will not be harmed.

Another concern of Turkey has been the timespan of activities as Akar often stresses on the importance of a pre-determined schedule.

“We have set some time periods. Because we have seen that some delays occur and some things have been lengthened out, based on our previous experiences,” Akar had said, adding that Turkey “no longer has tolerance” with such delays.

Akar also pointed out that if cooperation with the U.S. fails, Turkey has back-up plans to act on its own in northern Syria.