Efforts are underway to initiate joint patrols with U.S. military personnel "soon" for the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria, Turkey’s National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Monday.
“Our works are ongoing to initiate joint patrols with the American military elements soon,” Akar said during inspections on troops in the eastern Erzincan province, along with the chiefs of general staff, land, air, and naval forces.
Turkish and U.S. military officials reached an agreement on Aug. 7 that the safe zone in northern Syria will serve as a "peace corridor" for displaced Syrians longing to return home and a Joint Operations Center in Turkey will be set up to coordinate its establishment.
Akar said the first joint reconnaissance flight was carried out with a U.S. helicopter on Saturday.
“Efforts are ongoing to carry out a similar flight with a Turkish helicopter in the coming days,” he said, adding that joint patrols would start in the aftermath.
Akar also stated that Turkey does not have tolerance for delay.
“The topics that we have planned and agreed on should be maintained and realized in a certain pace,” he added.
In a phone call Wednesday, Akar and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper agreed to launch the first phase of the Syria safe zone plan as of Aug. 21.
Akar said a safe zone east of the Euphrates River in Syria should be established within the framework of the principles set out in the calendar without delay, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry.
On Turkey’s procurement of Russian S-400 missile defense system, Akar said the delivery of second batch of the system equipment is expected to start on Tuesday.
“Our aim is to protect our country and nation from air and missile threats that would come from outside,” he noted.
Delivery of the first batch of the S-400 equipment to the Murted Air Base in the capital Ankara was concluded on July 25.
The delivery of S-400 components began on July 12 and is set to continue through April 2020.
Turkey and the U.S. have been at odds over the S-400 purchase, with Washington claiming incompatibility with NATO systems, and threatening sanctions, while Ankara denies this, but promises any sanctions will be met in kind.
*Writing by Sena GulerAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.