The U.S. has moved closer to Turkey's position in Syria and showing some flexibility in its approach to a planned safe zone to be established in northern parts of the country along the border with Turkey, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Friday, ONA reports citing Daily Sabah.
In a private interview with broadcaster NTV at the IDEF'19 International Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul, Akar said he was happy to see that James Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria engagement and the special envoy for the anti-Daesh coalition, and his accompanying delegation had moved closer to Turkey's views regarding the safe zone and other issues in Syria.
Jeffrey and Joel Rayburn, U.S. special envoy for Syria, arrived Wednesday in Ankara, where they met with Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal. Akar and Jeffrey later met in Istanbul.
Turkey, having already cleared Daesh and the PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorist groups from border regions in Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northern Syria, aims to establish a 30-40 deep buffer zone in the area stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border after the planned U.S. pull out from the region.
"We do not accept and will not allow a terror threat against our country, people or borders in the east of Euphrates, Akar said.
"In that regard, our demand from the U.S., our friend, ally and strategic partner, that the YPG, which is no different than the PKK, is to be removed from the region, their weapons collected and transferred at least 30-40 kilometers to the south. We demand no PKK/YPG elements to be present in that 30-40 kilometers," he said, noting that the terrorists are conducting attacks by loading explosives on model planes.
"The U.S. has had a [negative] stance on this issue since the beginning. We see that there is some flexibility in that stance. Thus, we observe that they have moved closer to our views," Akar said, noting that he told Jeffrey and the U.S. delegation that while these talks are beneficial, they're also a serious loss of time and this provides terrorist opportunities risking the security of Turkey and its people; which should be dealt with as soon as possible.
Akar added that Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield on Aug. 2016 and cleared Daesh from the northern Syrian towns of Jarablus, al-Rai, Azaz, Dabiq and al-Bab by itself when talks with the U.S. for a joint operation proved unfruitful. At the time, Daesh terrorists were targeting Turkish settlements near the border and military outposts on a daily basis with harassment fire, and rocket and mortar attacks. "I once again expressed that we do not want to be in a situation like that ever again," Akar said.
Answering a question as to who will control the safe zone, Akar said that some U.S. officials came up with proposals that some anti-Daesh coalition, European or NATO forces could send troops but nobody had responded positively, adding that Turkey is the only county that could operate in the area.