Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar has told his US counterpart that Ankara would not allow for the formation of a ‘terror corridor’ to the country’s south and create a safe zone on its own unless an agreement was reached with Washington.
Ahval News portal reported on Monday that the minister told Mark Esper in a phone conversation that Turkey was the only country that could “adequately and effectively maintain control” in the proposed safe zone in northern Syria.
On July 26, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that Turkey would create the safe zone by itself in case it did not strike a deal with the US on the issue. Akar reiterated Erdogan’s rhetoric to Esper.
Last week Erdogan said Turkey was determined to launch a military offensive against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria regardless of the results of ongoing negotiations with the US on the planned safe zone.
Turkish authorities last week held a series of talks with a US delegation led by Special Representative for Syria Engagement, James Jeffrey over the latest developments in northern Syria, not having been satisfied with the US proposal.
The YPG which forms the central command structure of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting against Islamic State (ISIS), is a Kurdish militia that Turkey regards as a terrorist group.
This is due to its affiliation with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a rebellious group which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.
Turkish authorities have been determined to develop a safe zone in northern Syria for several reasons; one is the aim of relocating and accommodating some of the millions of refugees to northern Syria and another is to contain the expansion of YPG militia in the region.
Turkey wants a 30 km deep safe zone with full control over it while the US favors a 10 km-deep area with no permanent Turkish troops in it.