Ankara won’t tolerate any US delay over northern Syria safe zone: Turkish FM

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says his country will not tolerate any US delay in setting up a so-called safe zone in northern Syria, where US-sponsored Kurdish militants are operating.

“They (the Americans) first need to be sincere and need to understand that Turkey won’t tolerate delaying tactics,” Cavusoglu said during a press conference in the capital Ankara on Thursday.

“What we say since the beginning is that a US stalling tactic will not work. Unfortunately, they employed such stalling on Manbij [a city in the northeastern part of Syria’s province of Aleppo]. They did not keep their promise,” he added.

His comments came two days after the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a written statement that preparations for a joint operations center overseeing a safe zone in Syria had begun as an American military delegation had arrived in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa.

 “Works have been progressing to activate the Joint Operations Center … in Sanliurfa, within the scope of the planned safe zone in coordination with the US in Syria’s north,” the statement read.

“The infrastructure set-up has begun with the US delegation of six, and critical functions’ installations have been provided,” it added.

The ministry then emphasized that “delays are not being allowed.”

On August 7, Turkey and the United States reached an agreement on the establishment of a joint operation center in the northern part of Syria, in the wake of Ankara’s threats to launch an operation against Kurdish militants from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to push them away from the Turkish border.

Turkey views the YPG as the Syria branch of the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

Turkey expects the creation of a 32-kilometer (20-mile) safe zone in northern Syria, and has stressed that it wants the YPG cleared from the region.

The United States has been arming and training Kurdish militants under the banner of helping them fight the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, but Syria and several other countries see ulterior motives behind the deployment.

Turkey, a key US ally in the region, has repeatedly questioned Washington’s deployment of heavy weapons in Syria despite the defeat of Daesh in much of the Arab country.

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