Turkey seeks evidence on YPG withdrawal from safe zone
Turkish officials said they will need to independently confirm reports that the YPG has withdrawn from a safe zone in northwest Syria and reiterated their commitment to implement a roadmap for establishing the terror-free corridor with the United States.
“There is information yet to be confirmed that the YPG terrorists are withdrawing and some of their trenches have been destroyed. We want to see all this for ourselves,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told journalists on Aug 30.
Turkish and U.S. officials have agreed to set up the safe zone in Syria along Turkey’s southern border to address security threats posed by the YPG. A joint coordination center was formed in Akçakale province of Şanlıurfa in mid-August, and Turkish and American choppers have conducted several reconnaissance missions inside the zone, Akar said during his briefing.
The two sides are still working on the technical modalities of the safe zone, particularly on the size of the area and who will be responsible for protecting it.
“We are seriously following all the agreements we made and the timeline we have agreed on. We are exerting efforts for the full implementation of the timeline,” Akar stressed.
The minister said Turkey has not forgotten that the U.S. has not fulfilled its promises on the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij and Raqqa and therefore will continue to impose pressure to fully implement the safe zone deal.
“We have no tolerance for any delay. We want be sure that the region is cleared of terrorists and the terror corridor is destroyed,” Akar said.
US confirms reconnaissance flights
The United States European Command issued a statement Aug. 30 confirming two reconnaissance flights along the border.
“Yesterday, U.S. and Turkish leaders conducted their second reconnaissance flight across the Turkey and Syria border as a part of the establishment of the security mechanism in northeast Syria. This is the second flight within a week, following the first which took place on Aug. 24, 2019,” the statement said.
“This flight follows the establishment of the combined joint operations center (CJOC) last week and demonstrates continued commitment to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on their southern border, maintains security in northeast Syria so ISIS cannot reemerge, and allows the coalition and our partners to remain focused on achieving the enduring defeat of ISIS,” it added.
Russia assures Turkey on military posts
In the meantime, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Aug. 30 Russia had assured Turkey its observation posts in northwest Syria would no longer be attacked.
Speaking in Oslo, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu warned that continued attacks by Russian-based Syrian government forces in rebel-held Idlib province could unleash another wave of Syrian refugees to Europe.
Turkish and Russian presidents, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin, held a meeting on Aug. 27 near Moscow on recent developments in the war-torn Syrian province. A Turkish military convoy bound for Observation Post No. 9 in Morek region was attacked by regime forces just two weeks ago. Russia had deployed military police around the outpost to create a buffer zone between the Turkish and Syrian forces.
Çavuşoğlu added that Turkey’s military, which backs some Syrian groups, would leave the region only when a political solution was found.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, speaking earlier on Aug 30, underlined that the Turkish military would put in all its efforts to prevent Syrian regime forces from carrying out attacks on children, women, old people and the youth in Idlib.
He noted that more than 700 innocent people have been killed and more than 500,000 people forced from their homes after attacks by the regime in violation of de-escalation agreements.
“If any damage comes to our staff or observation points we will exercise our right to self-defense to the fullest,” Akar said, referring to what he said were false reports of attacks on Turkish observation points around Idlib in northwestern Syria.