FT Online

Published:
2019-10-07 11:09:38 BdST

Turkey’s Erdogan to meet Trump in US over Syria ‘safe zone’


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and
US counterpart Donald Trump agreed during a phone call to meet in Washington
next month to discuss creating a “safe zone” in northern Syria, the Turkish
presidency said Sunday.

Erdogan told Trump of his “frustration over the US military and security
bureaucracy’s failure to implement the deal” agreed in August to establish a
buffer zone on the Turkish border, the presidency said in a statement.

It added that the visit would take place after an invitation from Trump.

There had been expectations in Turkey of a Trump-Erdogan meeting on Syria
last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, but it did not take
place.

The Turkish leader had raised the temperature on Saturday by warning that
Ankara could launch a cross-border offensive “as soon as today, tomorrow”,
putting pressure on the United States.

Turkish state media also reported on military reinforcements sent to the
border with Syria after Erdogan’s comments.

Washington has sought to stop any Turkish operation against a US-backed
Syrian Kurdish militia viewed by Ankara as a “terrorist” offshoot of Kurdish
militants in Turkey.

The US worked closely with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia
against the Islamic State (IS) group, capturing swathes of territory from the
jihadists.

After difficult US-Turkey talks ended with the August agreement, Turkish
and American forces held joint ground and air patrols in northern Syria.

However, Turkey accused the US of stalling over the establishment of the
“safe zone”.

The two leaders discussed the “safe zone” during the call in which Erdogan
told Trump it would create the “necessary conditions” for Syrian refugees to
return to Syria.

Turkey is hosting over 3.6 million Syrian refugees but there has been a
growing public backlash in recent months against their presence in Turkey.

With some Western capitals concerned over any unilateral Turkish
operation’s impact on the fight against IS jihadists, Erdogan insisted Turkey
would take the “necessary precautions” to ensure there was no extremist
resurgence in the region.

Turkey twice launched military operations against IS in 2016 and the YPG in
2018, supporting Syrian rebels to take territory in northern Syria.

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