Turkey doubles down on Syria safe zone deal after Damascus rejection

ISTANBUL/DAMASCUS, dpa correspondents (dpa)- Turkey will not allow a Syrian safe-zone agreement jointly struck with the US to be sidelined, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday, hours after Damascus called the plan a "flagrant attack" on Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"We will not allow a stalling of this operation," Cavusoglu said, speaking to reporters in Ankara. "It needs to be implemented."

The top diplomat said Turkey did not want the deal to turn into "another Manbij road map," referring to a deal struck by the two NATO allies last year on the future of the northern Syrian town.
Turkey and the United States agreed on Wednesday to jointly establish a buffer zone in Syria's north, one day after Ankara threatened to mount a military offensive against US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in the region.
Ankara considers the YPG, who played a key role in fighting Islamic State militants in Syria, to be terrorists.
Cavusoglu said the Manbij road map, which was signed in June 2018 and foresaw pushing YPG out of the city, was never fully implemented.
Syria said Thursday it "categorically and absolutely" rejected the US-Turkish plan.
"Syria calls on the international community and the United Nations to condemn the flagrant US-Turkish aggression, which constitutes a dangerous escalation and poses a threat to peace and security in the region and the world," the state Syrian news agency SANA said, citing an unnamed official in the Foreign Ministry.
Ankara has long demanded the establishment of a safe zone in Syria's north to stem the flow of migrants into Turkey and oust YPG fighters from along its border with Syria.
Turkey wants the YPG and other allegedly linked groups, including the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), to be "completely cleansed from this area," Cavusoglu said.
Ankara wants the zone to be around 40 kilometres deep and for US and Turkish soldiers to jointly disarm and remove the YPG from Syria's north.
It is not yet clear how or when the safe zone would be created.

Thursday, August 8th 2019
dpa correspondents (dpa)

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