Turkey demands control of north Syria safe zone, threatens "operation"
Turkish President Tayyip Recap Erdogan has demanded that Turkey’s military be given control of the agreed-upon safe zone area for northeast Syria or else an independent operation would be launched instead.
“If our soldiers do not control the [northeast Syria] region within a few weeks, we will put our own [unilateral] operation plan into effect,” Erdogan said on Saturday.
During the same speech he also confirmed that Turkey expects the safe zone to extend across Turkey’s “entire border” with Syria “east of the Euphrates”.
Erdogan’s comments come as absolutely no surprise, given that Friday saw Turkish Minister of Defense, Hulusi Akar, make the cryptic statement that Turkey wanted to “check” the areas of northeast Syria reportedly withdrawn from by Kurdish YPG elements of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to confirm such claims.
The request to “check” these areas would already mean breaking the deal since Turkish ground forces can only enter to within a five kilometer depth of the 14 kilometer buffer zone and even then so only with US military guidance.
Furthermore, Turkish warplanes and reconnaissance aircraft are apparently not even allowed to enter into Syrian skies to carry out an assessment from above.
US forces and lawmakers have been scrambling to convince Turkey’s government that the SDF is cooperating with the agreement reached between Ankara and Washington; to this end official US military sources have been releasing pictures and video evidence reportedly showing the destruction of SDF positions near the southern Turkish border.
It seems that Ankara currently remains unconvinced that the SDF (which the Turkish government generalizes as the Kurdish YPG) has withdrawn from the intended buffer zone in northeast Syria.