Turkey’s defense minister met with the US Syria envoy on Monday to discuss the establishment of a safe zone in Syria, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
After welcoming James Jeffrey to the Turkish capital of Ankara for a two-day visit, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the planned safe zone east of the Euphrates River should be established jointly by Turkey and the US.
Commenting on the presence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Akar said their fortifications should be destroyed and heavy weapons collected.
In the past Washington’s cooperation with the YPG against ISIL and meetings between US officials and YPG leaders led to protests by Ankara, which considers the YPG a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which since the 1980s has led an insurgency in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast.
At Monday’s meeting the officials agreed that military delegations from both sides would begin joint work at the Defense Ministry on Tuesday on establishing a safe zone, the ministry announced.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major cross-border military offensives inside Syria and it has been threatening a new operation against YPG-held areas east of the Euphrates if a safe zone is not established.