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US delegation in Turkey for work on center to oversee Syria safe zone

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A US delegation has arrived in Turkey’s southern province of Şanlıurfa to start work on the establishment of a joint operations center to coordinate a planned safe zone in neighboring Syria, Reuters reported on Monday, citing Turkish authorities.

The two NATO allies agreed in talks last week to establish the center that would manage the zone in northern Syria, though no agreement has been announced on key details of the zone, including the size of the area in question and the command structure of joint patrols that would be conducted there.

There has been cautious progress on the center despite other disputes straining bilateral relations, including Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system as well as trials of local US consulate employees in Turkey on terrorism charges.

Work to establish the center has begun, and it is expected to become active in the coming days, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Twitter. “Within this context, a six-person US delegation has arrived in Şanlıurfa with the purpose of preliminary preparation,” it said.

The allies have been discussing a safe zone near the Turkish frontier that would be kept free of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants and heavy weapons, but Turkey wants it to extend more than twice as far into Syrian territory as the United States has proposed.

Turkey has suggested it will act militarily if the United States fails to agree to a solution that will safeguard the border.

Turkey says the YPG is an extension in Syria of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since the 1980s.

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