Turkey not satisfied with US proposal on safe zone in Syria: Turkish FM

Turkey not satisfied with US proposal on safe zone in Syria: Turkish FM

Sevil Erkuş- ANKARA
Turkey not satisfied with US proposal on safe zone in Syria: Turkish FM

Turkey’s foreign minister on July 24 said a new U.S. proposal concerning the creation of a possible “safe zone” in northern Syria is not “satisfactory” and suggested that Turkey will launch a new offensive in Syria if an agreement is not reached soon.

“New U.S. offers are not satisfactory for us. Here, we got the impression that they want to stall just like what happened with Manbij,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference after meeting with Denis Moncada Colindres, his Nicaraguan counterpart. 

The U.S. proposal includes a calendar of work extended over time, similar to the Manbij deal, but it even falls behind the initial proposal of U.S. President Donald Trump for establishing a safe zone with a 30-kilometer depth, a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Hürriyet Daily News.  The teams of U.S. and Turkish soldiers are not discussing a possible safe zone but only the proposal of patrols there with possible observation points, the official added.

Çavuşoğlu made the comments after U.S. and Turkish delegations discussed a possible safe zone along the border with Turkey. Turkey and the United States do not agree on the size of the possible zone or how it would be administered and the presence of the YPG group in the region, he said.

“What’s different is that there are new ideas on who will be included in the safe zone and joint patrols between soldiers. The most fundamental three sensitive topics for us are: the depth of the safe zone, the elimination of the PKK and YPG from there and whose control the zone will be under. We have not reached an agreement on these issues,” he said. “Our friends have told [them] that we cannot accept these offers and that we will formally inform after we have discussed it amongst ourselves.”

Elaborating on the ongoing talks between the U.S. and Turkish soldiers, the minister said: “The soldiers are discussing technical issues such as how can a joint patrol be achieved and how a base will be set up.”

A new U.S. proposal for establishing a safe zone in northern Syria is very much like the Manbij model that the two countries agreed, the minister said.

Çavuşoğlu recalled that the Manbij deal has not been fully realized despite more than a year having passed since the agreement. The minister reminded that the Manbij model envisaged retreat of the YPG from the town and joint work on the administration and security of Manbij.

“Essentially, this model can be transferred to the safe zone, but there should be no distraction,” he said.

The minister stressed that Ankara and Washington need to hammer an agreement as soon as possible, as Turkey has “run out of patience.” 

Minister Çavuşoğlu also said that the establishment of a Syrian constitutional committee, a long-awaited step in stalled efforts to resolve Syria’s eight-year civil war, could be announced in coming days.  Parties agreed on a 4+2 formula for the six-member civil society council of the committee, he added.     

Turkey views the YPG, which allied with the United States in the fight against the ISIL threat in Syria, as the Syrian branch of the illegal PKK group and wants the safe zone established to keep the fighters away from the border. Turkey has recently been sending troop reinforcements to its border region.

Jeffrey met İbrahim Kalın

The U.S. envoy Jeffrey also met with Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın on July 24, and they discussed “the Manbij road map, a long-awaited committee to revise Syria’s constitution and a political solution to the Syria crisis, ensuring the territorial integrity of the war-torn country were among the issues of the meeting”. 

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara said the discussions were “forthright, positive and productive.”

“The United States and Turkey continue to exchange views on mutual concerns in Syria, and we look forward to continuing these discussions, including through military-to-military consultations,” said the written statement.