ISTANBUL: A joint Turkish-US operation centre to establish and manage a safe zone in northeast Syria is fully operational, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as saying by the Anadolu news agency.
Turkey and the United States agreed to set up the joint operations centre for the proposed zone along Syria’s northeastern border but gave few details, such as the size of the zone or the command structure of the forces that would operate there.
“The joint operation centre has started working at full capacity. The command of centre is by one US general and one Turkish general,” Akar was quoted as saying.
On Saturday, a US and a Turkish general flew the first joint reconnaissance mission over northeast Syria, Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Robertson said the reconnaissance flight and the joint coordination centre, established earlier this week, “demonstrates commitment to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on their southern border,” and will help ensure “security in northeast Syria so IS cannot reemerge.”
Washington and Ankara have been at odds over plans for northeastern Syria, where the Kurdish YPG militia formed the main part of a US-backed force fighting IS. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group.
Syria’s Kurds said on Saturday they would support the implementation of the US-Turkey deal to set up a buffer zone in their areas.
On Saturday, Mazloum Kobani, the head of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said his alliance would back the deal.
“We will strive to ensure the success of (US) efforts towards implementing the understanding… with the Turkish state,” he said.
“The SDF will be a positive party towards the success of this operation,” he told journalists in the northeastern town of Hasakeh.
US Central Command said late on Friday that the SDF — which expelled the IS group from their last patch of territory in eastern Syria in March —had destroyed outposts in the border area.
“The SDF destroyed military fortifications,” it said in a statement
“This demonstrates (the) SDF’s commitment to support implementation of the security mechanism framework.”
CLASH WITH PKK
Meanwhile, three Turkish soldiers were killed and seven were wounded in a clash with Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, the Turkish defence ministry said on Sunday.
The statement came after Turkey on Friday launched the third phase of an operation begun in May to root out fighters of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) in the region.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the European Union and the United States, has rear bases in northern Iraq. — AFP
Turkey began conducting a ground offensive and bombing campaign against the PKK in the region in May.
The conflict has claimed more than 40,000 lives since the PKK took up arms in 1984. — AFP