Iraq News

US, Turkey to implement Syria 'safe zone' plan



Turkish military vehicles patrol near the Syrian town of Saraqeb in the north-western province of Idlib on September 4th. [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday (September 5th) that Turkey was ready to implement a Syria "safe zone" plan with Washington before the end of September.

The US and Turkey are to jointly patrol the safe zone, which Turkey is "determined to set up by the last week of September", Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara.

The NATO allies last month agreed to set up a buffer zone between the Turkish border and Syrian areas controlled by the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Erdogan said that 350,000 Syrians had already returned to parts of the country brought under Turkish control during offensives in 2016 and 2018.

"Our goal is to settle at least one million of our Syrian brothers and sisters in a safe zone along the border 450-kilometres long," he said.

Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and fears a fresh influx of refugees as the Syrian government advances into the last opposition stronghold of Idlib.

Late Wednesday, a top Turkish official told US national security advisor John Bolton that Ankara was ready to implement the Syria safe zone plan with Washington "without delay", state news agency Anadolu reported.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Bolton in a telephone call that "the Turkish side has completed preparations for the implementation of the Turkish-US joint operation plan without delay", Anadolu reported.

The two also discussed a possible meeting between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump on the margins of the annual UN General Assembly meetings in New York later this month.

The YPG -- a key partner to Washington in the fight against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in Syria -- has said they would help implement the buffer zone in their areas along the Turkish border.

Last month, the Kurdish authorities in north-east Syria said their forces had started to withdraw from outposts along the Turkish border after the US-Turkish deal was reached.

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