MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : TURKEY JOINTLY WITH US ? – Turkey says Syria safe zone center to start work next week: Anadolu

ISTANBUL, ANADOLU NEWS  17 Aug 2019 —A joint Turkish-U.S. operation centre to establish and manage a safe zone in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) in northeast Syria will be fully operational next week, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday. Turkey and the United States agreed last week to set up the joint operations center for the proposed zone along Syria’s northeast border, a move that appeared to reduce the chance of imminent Turkish military action against Syrian Kurds, but gave few details, such as the size of the zone itself or the command structure of forces that would operate there.

Earlier this week a U.S. delegation visited southern Turkey to work on getting the centre started, and Turkish drones began carrying out work in the area where the safe zone will be created, the defence ministry said.

“The joint operation centre will start working with full capacity next week,” Akar was quoted as saying by Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency.

Akar said that Turkish and U.S. officials have agreed that Syrian Kurdish YPG militia fighters should be removed from the area and their heavy weapons should be taken.

“There has been certain progress. It marks a good start. There are still things to be done, the efforts will continue,” Akar was quoted as saying by Anadolu.

U.S. Defense Department spokesman Commander Sean Robertson said Wednesday the agreement between the United States and Turkey to establish a safe zone in northern Syria will be implemented gradually, with some operations beginning soon. “The security mechanism will be implemented in stages,” Robertson said.

“The United States is prepared to begin implementing some activities rapidly as we continue discussions with Turkey.”

The goal of the zone is to create a buffer between the Turkish border and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units of Syrian Kurdistan (YPG) — which is supported by the US but is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey.

But retired general Joseph Votel, the former chief of US troops in the Middle East, has publicly opposed Ankara’s control of such a zone.

“Safe zones are generally established to protect people in conflict zones and are usually designed to be neutral, demilitarized, and focused on humanitarian purposes,” Votel wrote in the article with George Washington University Turkey expert Gonul Tol.

Turkey’s foreign minister said on Thursday that Ankara will not tolerate any delay from the US over setting up a safe zone in in northern Syria,

Turkish drones have started operating in Kurdish northern Syria where Washington and Ankara have agreed to create a safe zone, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.