US stalling on Syria safe zone will not work: Turkish FM
“They [the US] first need to be sincere and need to understand that Turkey won’t tolerate delaying tactics,” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said during a joint press conference in Ankara with Nabeela F. Tunis, his counterpart from Sierra Leone.
“What we say since the beginning is that a U.S. stalling tactic will not work. Unfortunately, they employed such stalling on Manbij [Syrian town], they did not keep their promise,” he added.
The east of the Euphrates River has since become a “terror nest” after Washington failed to keep its promises, Çavuşoğlu said, adding that the U.S. continued “to provide aid to terrorists in the region.”
The Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of YPG militants from the city to stabilize the region, which is located north of Aleppo near the Turkish border.
The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the European Union. Çavuşoğlu underlined that the preliminary agreement between Ankara and Washington for a safe zone was only a beginning and that there remained “many topics” that need detailing.
“For this reason, we agreed to set up a joint operations center,” he said, adding that several U.S. soldiers arrived in Turkey for this purpose.
“A delegation led by the deputy commander of the U.S. European Command will come to Şanlıurfa [province],” he added.
Noting that Turkish unmanned aircraft had begun flights over the region, Çavuşoğlu underlined that observation points would be erected and joint patrols conducted in the area.
“The aim here is to establish a safe zone and [U.S. President Donald] Trump made a promise for [a depth of] ‘20 miles,’” adding that the region could only be “safe” after it was cleared of the YPG.
Çavuşoğlu’s comments come as an American military delegation headed by Lieutenant General Stephen Twitty, deputy commander of the US European Command, was expected in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa.
He will supervise the establishment of the joint operations center as part of the effort to organize a “safe zone” in northern Syria, the Turkish defense ministry said.
The Pentagon on Aug. 14 said the agreement would be “implemented in stages.”
“We are currently reviewing options for the Joint Coordination Center with our Turkish military counterparts,” Defense Department spokesman Commander Sean Robertson told AFP.
“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.”
On Aug. 7, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed to set up a safe zone and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the return of displaced Syrians currently living in Turkey to their home country. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center.
The agreement envisages the setting up of measures necessary to address Turkey’s security concerns.