Turkey, US Progress on Joint ‘Safe Zone’ in Northern Syria

FILE – In this Wednesday, June 26, 2019 file photo, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, center left, arrives to NATO headquarters in Brussels. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had threatened an attack earlier if a safe zone agreement feel through.The joint statement by the Turkish Defense Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Turkey said that the measures would be implemented promptly “to address Turkey’s security concerns,” but did not specify whether the Kurdish fighters would be cleared from northeastern Syria.The move could bring tensions to a breaking point.Kurdish leader Padran Jia Kurd told the Reuters news agency Wednesday, “We want a political solution and dialogue, but if these regional and international efforts are exhausted, then we will be in total, grave military confrontation.”In a separate statement, 11 Kurdish groups condemned what they called a Turkish “occupation” of Kurd-controlled land, accusing the government in Ankara of “amassing” troops and establishing outposts along the border, and “making calculations for a permanent occupation.” The statement was released by news agency Arbil Kurdistan, which is thought to have ties to the Kurdish regional government.U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper briefs the media at a press conference following annual bilateral ministerial talks in Sydney, Australia, Aug. 4, 2019.U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said this week it would be “unacceptable” if Turkey did begin clearing Syrian Kurdish troops, but he did not guarantee them protection.The Syrian civil war has been raging for more than eight years, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing more than 13 million people in and outside the country. Government forces announced this week that the army would restart an offensive on the northwestern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold. Three months of airstrikes and shelling have killed more than 2,000 people on both sides and displaced an additional 400,000. 

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