SUN 7 - 6 - 2020
Date: Aug 29, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Erdogan says won't allow US to delay Syria 'safe zone'
Agence France Presse
ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Turkey would not allow the U.S. to delay the establishment of a 'safe zone' in northern Syria, in comments published Thursday.

Ankara and Washington earlier this month agreed after difficult talks to set up a buffer zone between the Turkish border and Syrian areas controlled by the U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG militia.

The NATO allies agreed to set up a joint operations centre which Turkey said at the weekend was at full capacity.

"We will never allow a delay similar to that in Manbij. The process should advance swiftly," Erdogan said, according to CNN Turk broadcaster.

Turkey and the United States in May last year agreed a road map including the withdrawal of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij in northern Syria.

"The agreement made with the U.S. towards clearing the east of the Euphrates [river] from the YPG and setting up a safe zone is the right step," Erdogan said after returning from talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said the YPG was "pulling a trick in Manbij" and had not withdrawn. Turkey has repeatedly accused the U.S. of delaying the previous deal.

Ankara says the YPG is a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

But the US worked closely with the YPG in the fight against Daesh (ISIS).

Turkey-U..S relations have been particularly tense over American support to the YPG but other issues remain, including the failure to extradite a Pennsylvania-based Muslim preacher blamed for the 2016 failed coup in Turkey.

But Erdogan said joint U.S.-Turkey patrols would "start soon" as part of the latest agreement for northern Syria.

He said Turkish forces and armoured vehicles were already at the border, adding: "We are in a position where we can do anything at any moment."

Turkey repeatedly threatened to launch a third cross-border offensive in Syria against the YPG until the U.S.-Turkey agreement.

Previous offensives by the Turkish military supporting Syrian rebels took place against Daesh in 2016 and against the YPG in 2018.

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