Turkey, US work to create buffer zone in northern Syria

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Turkey, US work to create buffer zone in northern Syria

Deutsche Welle

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Turkey, US work to create buffer zone in northern Syria
Turkey, US work to create buffer zone in northern Syria. picture-alliance/dpa/XinHua
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For months, Turkey has been threatening to send troops across its southern border into predominantly Kurdish northeastern Syria. It would be Turkey’s third military offensive in northern Syria, following interventions in 2016 and 2018. The United States, meanwhile, has warned Turkey that any hostile action will be punished.

Yet last week, both sides met in Ankara to flesh out an agreement creating a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border. The area will be controlled by Turkey. To facilitate the process, the US and Turkey will establish a joint operations center in the region. According to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, the command post will be operational within the next few days.

Read more: Take Turkey’s threats to invade Syria seriously

Details about the planned “peace corridor” so far remain vague. Above all, Turkish authorities want to create a buffer zone east of the Euphrates River in order to force fighters from the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) from the region.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry says it is currently “mopping up” along the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey’s government considers the YPG, which controls larges swatches of northern Syria, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ankara has classified the PKK as a terrorist organization and views it as a threat to its national security.

Friends or foes?

Washington, on the other hand, considers the YPG one of its key allies in the fight against the Islamic State group. The US has armed, trained and fought alongside YPG soldiers in recent years. The alliance has been successful in largely defeating Islamic State fighters in northern Syria. Washington now fears that if Turkey expells YPG forces from the region, the ensuring power vacuum could be filled by insurgent militant groups.

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