Turkish defense minister on border for Syria safe zone
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces on Aug. 16 visited the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa to examine a planned U.S.-Turkey Joint Operations Center that will administer a safe zone in northern Syria.
Deputy Commander of the U.S. European Command CENTCOM Lieut. Gen. Stephen Twitty visited Turkey with an accompanying military delegation on Aug. 15-16 to discuss the planned safe zone in northern Syria, exploring the Joint Operations Center at the Turkish army frontier in the Akçakale district of Şanlıurfa.
“Within the scope of the safe zone, which is planned to be established in the north of Syria in coordination with the U.S., efforts are underway for the Joint Operation Center to be established in Şanlıurfa to become operational,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Aug. 16.
A six-member U.S. team also arrived in the southeastern border province on Aug. 12. “The Joint Operations Center is projected to start functioning in the coming days,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement following the arrival of the U.S. delegation. Meanwhile, Turkish unmanned vehicles had begun flights over the region in northern Syria.
Turkish and U.S. military officials on Aug. 7 agreed to set up a safe zone and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians, who are longing to return their home.
The agreement envisages the setting up of measures necessary to address Turkey’s security concerns.
The deal stipulates the establishment of Turkish military posts in the safe zone, along with patrols of Turkish and U.S. soldiers, while YPG members are expected to retreat to the south.
The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK group, which has been in clashes with the Turkish state since it was founded 30 years ago. The clashes have claimed the lives of some 40,000 people.
Pentagon on Aug. 14 said the safe zone agreement between the U.S. and Turkey will be implemented gradually, with some operations beginning soon.
“We are currently reviewing options for the Joint Coordination Center with our Turkish military counterparts,” Defense Department spokesman Commander Sean Robertson said.
“The security mechanism will be implemented in stages,” Robertson said.
“The United States is prepared to begin implementing some activities rapidly as we continue discussions with Turkey,” he added.