August 8, 2019

Turkey and U.S. reach agreement on north Syria safe zone

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Turkey and the United States of America have reached an agreement on establishing a safe zone in northern Syria, averting an incursion that Turkey earlier said was imminent.

Representatives of the two NATO allies spent three days in the Turkish capital Ankara, discussing the deal, while being pressured by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who said on Sunday that a third incursion targeting Kurdish-controlled territory might come up. 

The safe zone close to east of the Euphrates river is described as “peace corridor” by the two NATO partners. 

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters rest on a couch in Tadef, near the city of al-Bab in north Syria, August 6, 2019. /VCG Photo

During months of discussion, one of the contentious points was the actual size of the demilitarized region, whether it should extend 32 kilometers into Syria as Turkey prefers, or less than half of this length as the U.S. proposed.

A Turkish-back fighter is entering a room, while defending the frontier from Kurdish-led YPG, which is viewed as a national threat by the Turkish government, Tadef, Syria, August 6, 2019. /VCG Photo

With the People’s Protection Units (YPG) behind, which conducted an armed protest against the country 35 years ago, Kurdish-controlled Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is viewed as a national threat by Ankara. 

Turkey sent troops into northern Syria twice in the last three years. 

Building a safe strip along the border would be one way for Turkey to drive away YPG from the frontier. 

A Turkish-backed Syrian fighter carries his bullet belt in north Syria, where Turkey and the U.S. agree to set up a safe zone to better guard the area. /VCG Photo

For years, the U.S. has backed Kurdish-led YPG to fight ISIL jihadists, which lost their last grasp of military control at the east side of the Euphrates river earlier this year. 

Turkey angered the U.S. last month by buying Russian missile defense equipment, and the two countries are also split over Washington’s Iran sanctions and refusal to extradite a Muslim cleric wanted by Ankara.


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