US, Turkey begin joint military patrols in Syria safe zone

DAMASCUS, Khalil Hamlo and Amr Mostafa (dpa)– US-Turkish forces on Sunday began joint patrols for the first time as part of a planned safe zone in north-eastern Syria, a war monitor said, provoking an angry response from the Syrian government.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the joint patrols are taking place in the countryside, between Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain on the Syrian-Turkish border.

The move comes after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) withdrew from the area in line with an agreement with the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State.
Residents said armoured vehicles with Turkish flags entered the area and joined US troops near Tel Abyad city.
Helicopters from the US-led alliance and Turkey hovered over the area as the Turkish vehicles were crossing into Syria, a military source with the SDF told dpa.
Syria responded by saying the joint US-Turkish patrols were against international law.
“Syria condemns in the strongest terms the launching of joint patrols by the US administration and the Turkish regime in the Syrian al-Jazeera region, in a flagrant violation of international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,” an official source at the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency SANA.
Turkey and the United States agreed on August 7 to establish a safe zone near the border with Syria, which has been wrecked by civil war since 2011.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey and the US had different ideas about the so-called security zone, and that Turkey wanted the "terrorist organization" to be completely removed from the region.
Ankara has been pushing to control an area about 40 kilometres deep in northern Syria and remove US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces there.
Turkey considers these forces - dominated by the People's Protection Units (YPG), which controls large areas of northern Syria at its border - to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has been waging a decades-long insurgency within the Turkey.
Erdogan said the US was out to create the security zone "not for us, but for the terrorist organization," without giving further explanation.
Washington has also relied on the Kurdish-dominated SDF as the most effective group in fighting Islamic State in Syria.
Erdogan also reiterated Ankara's determination to establish the zone by the end of September, otherwise there was no other option but for Turkey to go its own way.
In the past, Erdogan has repeatedly threatened a military operation against the YPG in northern Syria. Erdogan said he wanted to settle "at least 1 million" Syrian refugees in the zone.

Monday, September 9th 2019
Khalil Hamlo and Amr Mostafa (dpa)

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