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Ankara to establish safe zone in Syria alone if Turkey, US fail to agree: minister

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Turkey will have to create a safe zone in northern Syria by itself if it cannot come to an agreement with the US, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told his American counterpart on Monday, according to Daily Sabah.

Akar spoke on the phone with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, reiterating that Turkey expects the US to fully withdraw its support from the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist group.

“If Turkey, the US don’t find common ground, Ankara will be obliged to create a safe zone on its own,” Akar said.

The defense minister also noted that Turkey is the only competent and efficient power to provide control over the planned safe zone in northern Syria.

He said the safe zone should be created under criteria that include the retrieval of all weapons from the PKK and YPG situated in the safe zone; elimination of the terrorist organization from the safe zone; and destruction of the PKK and YPG’s tunnels, shelters, equipment and ammunition in the area, which will be controlled by Turkey in coordination with the US.

Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria — Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch — to purge the region of terrorist groups, most notably the YPG.

Turkey had long signaled a possible offensive in areas held by the YPG east of the Euphrates River. However, the government decided to postpone the operation in December after US President Donald Trump announced that Washington would withdraw its troops from Syria.

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