Turkey, US agree to launch first phase of Syria safe-zone plan

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Turkey and the US have agreed to launch the first phase putting in place a safe zone in northern Syria after months of dispute over the depth of the zone and who would control it.

Hulusi Akar, Turkish Defence Minister and his US counterpart Mark Esper spoke over the phone on Wednesday and agreed to flesh out the first phase of implementing the zone, Anadolu news agency reported, adding that delegations from both sides are expected to meet in Ankara “soon”.

The first phase is expected to be launched later this week and will see joint patrols of Turkish and US soldiers.

But negotiations on the scope and implementation are still ongoing, with the main sticking point being the size of the zone.

In a joint statement released on August 7, the NATO allies said the safe zone would become a “peace corridor”, without providing further details. At the time, the Syrian government called the agreement a “blatant attack” on the country’s sovereignty.

A joint operations centre is to be created in Sanliurfa in Turkey’s southeast, 130 kilometres from the border with Syria and about 330 kilometres from Syria’s Idlib, where bombardment of rebel groups is ongoing.

Turkey has been concerned over the passage of people coming from Syria, especially since at least 400,000 civilians have in recent weeks amassed near the Turkish-Syria border due to continuous air strikes launched by the Syrian government and ally Russia.