Turkey

Turkish defense minister in border for safe zone

Turkey's defense chief, high-level commanders in Sanliurfa to inspect troops preparing to set up joint operations center

Yildiz Aktas and Sarp Ozer   | 16.08.2019
Turkish defense minister in border for safe zone Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (3rd, R) (Arif Akdogan - Anadolu Agency)

SANLIURFA, Turkey

Turkish military chiefs arrived at the country's southeastern border on Friday to inspect the troops ahead of a planned safe zone in Syria. 

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar along with Chief of General Staff Yasar Guler, and commanders of the land, air, and naval forces arrived in the southeastern city of Sanliurfa to inspect troops preparing for the set up of a Turkish-US Joint Operations Center.

The team was welcomed by high-level commanders at Sanliurfa’s airport.

A six-member U.S. team also arrived in the southeastern province on Aug. 12.

"The Joint Operations Center is projected to start functioning in the coming days," the National Defense Ministry said in a statement following the arrival of the U.S. delegation.

Turkish and U.S. military officials on Aug. 7 agreed to set up a safe zone and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians, who are longing to return their home. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that the preliminary Turkey-U.S. agreement on a safe zone is just a beginning and many topics need detailing.

The agreement also envisaged setting up necessary security measures to address Turkey's security concerns.

He said: "The aim here is to establish a safe zone and [U.S. President Donald] Trump made a promise for [a depth of] 20 miles [32 kilometers]," adding that the region could only be "safe" after it was cleared of the YPG and PKK terrorist groups.

Noting that Turkish unmanned aircraft had begun flights over the region, Cavusoglu underlined that observation points would be erected and joint patrols conducted in the area.

The YPG/PKK is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror group, which has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people in Turkey, including many children, women, and infants, for more than 30 years.

* Writing by Rabia Iclal Turan

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