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Turkey’s Erdoğan expects Syria ‘safe zone’ in place within months

Turkish President and leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during his party's parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, Turkey on October 23, 2018. AFP PHOTOS

Turkey expects its allies to help set up a “safe zone” in Syria along the Turkish border within a few months, otherwise it will establish the zone alone, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday, Reuters reported.

US President Donald Trump decided in December to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, and Erdoğan subsequently said they had discussed Turkey setting up a 20-mile-deep safe zone in Syria along the border.

Trump’s decision came as Turkey made preparations for an offensive against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia east of the Euphrates River in northeast Syria, having seized control of regions west of the river in previous operations.

Turkey has long been enraged by US support for the YPG, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group, and Erdoğan said the safe zone should be “aimed at protecting our country from terrorists, not protecting terrorists right beside our border.”

“Otherwise, we will definitely form this safe or buffer zone ourselves. Our only expectation from our allies is that they provide logistical support to Turkey’s effort,” he told his Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters in a speech in the eastern city of Erzurum.

The YPG has been a key ally of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and Trump has previously warned Ankara not to attack them in Syria, appearing to threaten Turkey’s economy if it did.

Erdoğan said that neither the United Nations nor the international coalition formed to protect the Syrian people was capable of creating a safe zone or maintaining security in the region.

“The only power that can in a true sense establish the safety and functioning of this region on our Syrian border is Turkey,” he said. “We are closed to all proposed solutions besides this.”

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