Turkey ready to set up Syria safe zone’

 

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he responded positively to Donald Trump’s call for a “safe zone” along its border with Kurdish-held Syria.

The leaders spoke by telephone after Mr Trump threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if it attacked a Kurdish militia when allied US troops withdrew.

Turkey regards the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist group.

On Tuesday, Mr Erdogan told Turkish MPs he had agreed that a 32km (20-mile) deep safe zone “will be created by us”.

There was no immediate response from Mr Trump or US officials, nor the Kurdish authorities who control more than 400km of the Turkish-Syrian border.

However, the US president tweeted on Monday night that he had spoken to Mr Erdogan to “advise where we stand” on the safe zone and efforts to eliminate the remnants of the Islamic State group in eastern Syria with the help of fighters from the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces alliance.

 

“Also spoke about economic development between the US & Turkey – great potential to substantially expand!” he added.

 

Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.

The YPG is heavily influenced by the ideology of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. However, it denies any direct organisational links to the group.

 

In mid-December, Mr Trump announced that the US would pull out its 2,000 troops from Syria because IS had been “defeated”.

 

The sudden move shocked allies and led to criticism. US Defence Secretary James Mattis and several other senior officials resigned shortly afterwards.

 

Opponents of the US withdrawal expressed fears that the Turkish military and allied Syrian Arab rebels would launch an offensive to drive YPG fighters and Kurdish civilians away from the border, as they did in the western Afrin region a year ago.—BBC

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