“If the safe zone is not established and threats towards our country continue, we will launch the operation in the east of the Euphrates,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with broadcaster TGRT Haber on Monday.
Turkey has been in talks with the US over the establishment of a militant-free safe zone across its border in northern Syria.
Washington revised plans for a total pullout of troops from Syria by saying in February that in total between 800 and 1,500 foreign troops would be sent on a mission to police northeastern Syria in the near future, around 400 of them American.
This is deemed as a reversal of promises by President Donald Trump to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from the Arab country once Washington’s alleged fight against terrorism ends.
However, Turkey suspects the US and allies are helping the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces based in east of the Euphrates river to establish a permanent foothold in the region. Ankara views the armed Kurds in northeastern Syria as an extension of the outlawed Kurdish militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Russia: No Syria safe zone without Damascus consentRussia has reminded Turkey that it needs the Damascus government’s green light to create any safe zone inside Syrian borders.
Cavusoglu said on Monday that talks with the US have slowed down, adding that his country had told Washington that it should not use the fighting in Syria’s province of Idlib as a pretext for deserting the proposed safe zone further east.
He also expressed his hope that an agreement will be reached after talks on Monday with the visiting US special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey.
“The Americans sent Jeffrey and said there were new proposals in the talks that will start today. We hope an agreement can be reached on this. Concrete steps are needed on this now.”
He repeated Turkey’s frustration that a deal reached between Ankara and Washington to purportedly remove YPG militants from Syria’s northern town of Manbij had still not been implemented, more than a year after the plan was agreed.