Photo: Presidency of the Republic of Turkey/ssb.gov.tr
ISTANBUL,— Turkish drones have started operating in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) in northern Syria where Washington and Ankara have agreed to create a safe zone, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.
Turkey and the United States agreed last week to set up a joint operations center regarding the safe zone to be established in northern Syria.
No agreement has been announced on key details such as the size of the zone and the command structure of joint patrols that would be conducted there.
A six-person U.S.
delegation arrived in the southern Turkish province of Sanliurfa on Monday to work on the establishment of the operations center.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that work was continuing to make the joint operations center in Sanliurfa operational.
It added that Turkish drones had started carrying out work in the area where the safe zone will be created, but did not provide further information on the drones’ operations.
Washington and Ankara have been at odds over plans for Syrian Kurdistan, where U.S.
allies on the ground in the battle against Islamic State include the Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey considers an enemy and a terrorist group.
The allies have been discussing a safe zone near the Turkish frontier that would be kept free of combatants and heavy weapons, but Turkey wants it to extend more than twice as far into Syrian territory as the United States has proposed.
Turkey has suggested it will act militarily if the United States fails to agree a solution that will safeguard the border.
Turkey says the YPG is an extension in Syria of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since the 1980s.
Washington has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, as part of an international anti-jihadist coalition dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
President Donald Trump abruptly announced the pullout from Syria.
The Kurdish PYD and its powerful military wing YPG/YPJ, considered the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and U.S.
has provided them with arms. The YPG, which is the backbone of the SDF forces, has seized swathes of Syria from Islamic State.
The Kurdish YPG forces expelled the Islamic State group from its last patch of territory in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz in March 2019.
In 2016, the Turkish troops entered northern Syria in an area some 100 km east of Afrin to stop the Kurdish YPG forces from extending areas under their control and connecting Syrian Kurdistan’s Kobani and Hasaka in the east with Afrin canton in the west.
In January 2018, Turkish military forces backed pro-Ankara Syrian mercenary fighters to clear the YPG from its northwestern enclave of Afrin. In March 2018, the operation was completed with the capture of the Kurdish city of Afrin.
The flags of Turkey and Syrian rebel groups were raised in the Kurdish Afrin city and a statue of Kurdish hero Kawa, a symbol of resistance against oppressors, was torn down.
Residents of the Kurdish city and Human right groups accuse Turkey and pro-Ankara fighters of kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies and torture.
Turkey fears the creation of a Kurdish autonomous region or Kurdish state in Syrian Kurdistan could encourage separatism amongst its own Kurds, according to analysts.
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