Erdogan Says Turkey to Launch Own Syria Plan Unless It Secures Control of 'Safe Zone'

Erdogan pledges to put operational plans into effect if talks with the U.S. fail to give Turkish troops control of the area within a few weeks

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin outside Moscow, Russia, August  27, 2019.
\ POOL New/ REUTERS

Turkey will launch its own operation to establish a "safe zone" in Syria if talks with the United States fail to give Turkish troops control of the area within a few weeks, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

Washington and Ankara have been at odds over plans for the region in northeastern Syria where the U.S.-backed force led by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia have been fighting Islamic State.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group because it says it has links to Kurdish militants in Turkey.

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Turkey and the United States have set up a joint operation center for the planned zone along the border with Turkey but have disagreed over the size of the zone or the command structure of the forces to operate there.

"We do not have much time or patience regarding the safe zone which will be established along our entire border east of the Euphrates (river)," Erdogan said in a speech at a graduation ceremony at the National Defence University in Istanbul.

"If our soldiers do not control the region within a few weeks, we will put our own operation plan into effect," he said.

He did not specify what the operation plan would entail, but he has previously warned that Turkey would mount a cross-border offensive on its own to clear the YPG militia from its border if necessary.