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Erdoğan says Syria safe zone deal with US correct step: report

Armoured vehicles and soldiers of Turkish Armed Forces start to patrol between northern Syrian city of Manbij and Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield area on June 18, 2018. AFP PHOTOS

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey’s deal with the United States to set up a “safe zone” in northeast Syria was a correct step and that Ankara would not let Washington delay the plan, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing CNN Türk.

Ankara revealed last weekend that a joint operations center for the proposed zone along Syria’s northeastern border is now fully operational.

Washington and Ankara have been at odds over plans for the region, where the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia form the main part of a US-backed force fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group.

“The agreement which we have reached with the USA is a correct step towards establishing a safe zone and removing the YPG from east of the Euphrates [River],” Erdoğan told reporters on his way back from a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Erdoğan said Turkey would not accept delays in the plan, comparing it to an earlier deal with Washington to remove YPG fighters from the northern Syrian city of Manbij, which Ankara accused Washington of delaying.

The safe zone was proposed last year by US President Donald Trump, who had announced plans to withdraw US special forces from northern Syria but later suspended the plan to ensure Washington’s Kurdish allies would be protected.

Erdoğan said this week Turkish ground troops would enter the planned safe zone “very soon,” having warned previously that Turkey would mount a cross-border offensive on its own to clear the YPG militia from its border if necessary.

“All the personnel, the armored carriers, all are on the border. That is, we are in a position to do everything at any moment,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying.

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