US dispatches two top soldiers to discuss future of Syria safe zone
Turkey and the United States have intensified their bilateral military dialogue over the creation of a safe zone in northeastern Syria after the completion of their first combined patrol mission, the two countries’ military officials announced on Sept. 10.
A statement issued by the Turkish Defense Ministry said the U.S. military delegation, headed by Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty — deputy commander of U.S European Command — and Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Bergeson — deputy commander of U.S. Central Command — would hold talks at the headquarters of the General Staff in the Turkish capital.
Activities for the formation of a safe zone in the northern Syria and east of River Euphrates are ongoing, the ministry added.
In a separate statement, EUCOM informed that the U.S. delegation was poised to discuss key topics related to the implementation of the northeast Syria security mechanism with the Turkish side.
“[They] will meet with their Turkish counterparts this week to discuss future support for the combined joint operations center [CJOC] and other key activities that support security mechanism progress and management,” it said.
“Coordination and consultation between the U.S. and Turkey are key to addressing Turkey’s legitimate security concerns in the region. The U.S. and Turkey are working together to rapidly implement the security mechanism and are on time or ahead of schedule in many areas,” it added.
The statement underlined that “continued success of the security mechanism will prevent ISIS [ISIL] from reemerging in northeast Syria and allow the Coalition and our SDF partners to remain focused on defeating ISIS.”
On Aug. 7, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed to set up a safe zone in northern Syria and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians who want to return home. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center.
The agreement also envisaged setting up necessary security measures to address Turkey’s security concerns, including clearing the zone of the YPG, a group the U.S. has sometimes been allied with, over Turkey’s objections. Ankara considers the YPG a group with links to the PKK, designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
Although the two sides have organized a combined patrol mission in the safe zone, Turkey continues to urge the U.S. not to stall the process. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had warned of a unilateral military action into northern Syria if the U.S. does not sincerely and committedly act to set up a safe zone in the said enclave.