Turkey Says No Agreement on Syria Safe Zone With U.S.

Ankara says 'no patience left,' once again threatens military offensive on country's northeast if safe zone accord isn't found

A convoy of Turkish Army armoured personnel carriers led by a tank are driven toward the border with Syria, in the outskirts of Hassa, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.
Ibrahim Mase/AP

New U.S. proposals for a safe zone in north Syria do not satisfy Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, adding that an agreement on the issue needs to be reached as soon as possible because Ankara has no patience left.

Turkey has been infuriated by U.S. support for the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. The NATO allies have agreed to create a safe zone in northern Syria following the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the area, which Turkey wants to be cleared of YPG militants.

The YPG, which spearheads the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, has been the main U.S. ally on the ground in Syria during Washington’s fight against Islamic State.

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The U.S. special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey was in Ankara this week for talks on the details of the safe zone.

At a news conference in Ankara on Wednesday, Cavusoglu said that the two allies had failed to agree on how deep the safe zone would be, who would control it and whether the YPG would be completely removed from the area.

“We got the impression that they want to enter a stalling process here as in Manbij,” Cavusoglu said, referring to a roadmap agreed last year to clear a northern Syrian town of YPG fighters. “We need to reach an agreement regarding the safe zone as soon as possible because we have no patience left.”

FILE PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu walk back after meeting journalists at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, November 20, 2018.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais,AP

Cavusoglu also said that U.S. military officials meeting with a YPG leader on Monday - the same day as Jeffrey’s talks at the foreign ministry - indicated Washington was not sincere.

He said on Monday that if the safe zone in northern Syria is not established, and if threats continue against Turkey, Ankara would launch a military operation east of the Euphrates river, a move that Ankara has threatened in the past.

Ankara is also working with Russia and Iran, allies of the Syrian government, to establish a constitutional committee - a long-awaited step in stalled effort to resolve the country’s civil war.

Asked about the details of a recent phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Cavusoglu said the establishment of the constitutional committee could be announced in the coming days.