U.S., Turkey agree to start ‘safe zone’ plan in north Syria

The defense chiefs of the United States and Turkey have agreed on the first phase of a safe zone plan to root out terrorists in northern Syria.

A convoy of U.S. army troops and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia patrol near al-Ghanamya village, at the Syria-Turkey border on April 29, 2017. File Photo by Youssef Rabie Youssef

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Turkey Defense Minister Hulusi Akar agreed to terms of the plan Wednesday, and said it would begin immediately.

The strategy includes establishing a safe zone east of the Euphrates River in north Syria, which has seen rising numbers of militants from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Akar said details of a jointly-run operations center will be discussed in Ankara soon. Technical details of the safe zone are still in the works, but the two agreed to start creating a framework for the joint center immediately.

Pentagon representative Jonathan R. Hoffman said Esper and Akar “praised the work the military-to-military delegations accomplished thus far and welcomed the implementation of a security mechanism in northeast Syria.”

YPG and PKK fighters in north Syria have been fighting the Islamic State terror group, with the help of the United States, for some time. Turkey considers the groups terrorists.

The Pentagon said Esper and Akar will look for a viable way to stabilize the border and maintain “the global coalition’s efforts to defeat [the Islamic State], and limit any uncoordinated military operations that would undermine this shared interest.

ByClyde Hughes