ANKARA,— Ankara will not tolerate any delay from the US over setting up a safe zone in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) in northern Syria, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Thursday.
“They (the US) first need to be sincere and need to understand that Turkey won’t tolerate delaying tactics,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a press conference in Ankara.
His 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 Sanliurfa.
He will supervise the establishment of the joint operations centre as part of the effort to organise a “safe zone” in northern Syria, the Turkish defence ministry.
The Pentagon on Wednesday said the agreement would be “implemented in stages”.
The goal of the zone is to create a buffer between the Turkish border and areas controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch an assault east of the Euphrates river against the YPG, which it says is a “terrorist” offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
Turkey fears the creation of a Kurdish autonomous region or Kurdish state in Syrian Kurdistan could encourage separatism amongst its own Kurds, according to analysts.
But Washington has worked closely with the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
Washington has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, as part of an international anti-jihadist coalition dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
President Donald Trump abruptly announced the pullout from Syria.
The Kurdish PYD and its powerful military wing YPG/YPJ, considered the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and U.S.
has provided them with arms. The YPG, which is the backbone of the SDF forces, has seized swathes of Syria from Islamic State.
The Kurdish YPG forces expelled the Islamic State group from its last patch of territory in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz in March 2019.
Little is known about the size of the safe zone and how it will work, but Cavusoglu said there would be observation posts and joint patrols.
He said US President Donald Trump had previously promised it would be 32-kilometre (20 mile) wide.
Turkey previously conducted two offensives into Syria, against IS and the YPG, in 2016 and 2018.
In 2016, the Turkish troops entered northern Syria in an area some 100 km east of Afrin to stop the Kurdish YPG forces from extending areas under their control and connecting Syrian Kurdistan’s Kobani and Hasaka in the east with Afrin canton in the west.
In January 2018, Turkish military forces backed pro-Ankara Syrian mercenary fighters to clear the YPG from its northwestern enclave of Afrin. In March 2018, the operation was completed with the capture of the Kurdish city of Afrin.
The flags of Turkey and pro-Ankara Syrian groups were raised in the Kurdish Afrin city and a statue of Kurdish hero Kawa, a symbol of resistance against oppressors, was torn down.
Residents of the Kurdish city of Afrin and Human right groups accuse Turkey and pro-Ankara fighters of kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies and torture.
In 2013, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party PYD — the political branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) — has established three autonomous Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan in 2013. On March 17, 2016, Kurdish authorities announced the creation of a “federal region” made up of those semi-autonomous regions in Syrian Kurdistan.
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