Turkey establishes 145-km-long, 30-km-deep safe zone in Syria: Defense minister
Turkey has established a safe zone 145 kilometers in length and 30 km in depth in northern Syria, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Nov. 21, noting that Ankara and Moscow have talks on the continued presence of YPG members in the region despite the latter having informed Ankara that a total of 34,000 YPG members left the region.
Russia informed Turkey that “a total of 34,000 YPG members with 3, 260 heavy weapons were taken out from the east of Tel Rifat, Manbij and east of the Euphrates to the south of the 30 km safe zone since the morning of Oct. 29, in accordance with the principles set out in the Sochi Agreement,” Akar said, speaking at the budget discussions in parliament.
However, Turkey has contradictory findings on the withdrawal of YPG members and this issue is being discussed with Moscow, Akar noted.
“Findings to the contrary are being discussed with the Russian Federation,” he said.
Ankara halted its military incursion against the YPG last month after agreeing with Moscow that the YPG would pull out of a swathe of land east of the Euphrates River, as well as the towns of Tel Rifat and Manbij, west of the river.
Akar said Turkey had determined that the YPG was still present in the Manbij region “wearing the clothes of the [Syrian government] regime elements,” and had asked Russia to address the issue.
He said that as part of Operation Peace Spring, 4,300 square km of area and 600 settlements have been taken under control, while checkpoints were installed along the strategic M-4 highway.
Turkey has complained that the withdrawal has not been completed and threatened to resume its offensive. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Nov. 20 that it was almost done, adding that Ankara had assured Moscow that it did not plan to launch a new military operation.
Italians end deployment in southeast Turkey, Spanish mission uncertain
The minister also said the Patriot missile defense systems deployed by Spain in 2015 in southeast Turkey as part of a NATO mission would stay by the end of 2019, but Italians would end deployment of their SAMP-T systems by the end of 2019.
Akar said talks for extension of the Spanish systems are still ongoing.
Meanwhile, a total of 17,866 personnel were dismissed, including 150 generals, 8,413 officers, and 7,612 non-commissioned officers since the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt, due to FETÖ links, the minister said. A total of 2,709 staff were suspended and the ranks of 909 retired staff were revoked, he noted.