Erdogan, Trump agree to speed up talks on security zone in Syria

Erdogan, Trump agree to speed up talks on security zone in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump during a phone conversation agreed to speed up negotiations on the creation of a security zone in northeastern Syria, the Turkish leader’s administration said on Sunday, Trend reported citing Sputnik.

“Today, our president held a phone conversation with his US counterpart Donald Trump. President Erdogan said Turkey was ready to take urgent security measures in the Manbij region to prevent the PKK-YPG [Kurdistan Workers’ Party — Kurdish People's Protection Units] from destabilizing the situation…. The leaders also agreed to speed up the negotiations initiated by the heads of the headquarters of the two countries to create a security zone in Syria", the statement says.

The parties agreed to take measures to eliminate the remnants of the Daesh* terrorist group in Syria and to prevent its revival, it added.

Erdogan also expressed his condolences to Trump in connection with the death of the US troops as a result of the terrorist attack in Manbij, adding that this provocation is aimed at influencing the decision of the US President to withdraw US troops from Syria.

On Tuesday, Erdogan said, following a phone conversation with Trump, that the latter had proposed creating a 30-kilometer (18-mile) buffer zone in Syria. The Turkish leader recalled that he had come with a similar initiative as far back as when Barack Obama was president, but the proposal never came to pass. According to Erdogan, the future security zone will be controlled by the country's military.

In December, Erdogan announced that Ankara was ready to launch a military operation against Kurdish fighters on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River as well as in Syria's Manbij, located near the Turkish border, if the United States did not remove the militia from there.

The Turkish later said that he had decided to postpone the start of the military operation in Syria after a phone conversation with Trump on 14 December, during which the US president also revealed his plans to withdraw troops from Syria.

On Wednesday, nearly two dozen people, including US servicemen, were killed in Manbij in an explosion for which the Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) left Manbij at the end of last year amid fears that Ankara would launch a military operation there against them. The city is controlled by Damascus at the moment.

US President Donald Trump made an announcement in December that about 2,000 US ground forces in Syria would be withdrawn within a month. The decision prompted then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign.

Following Trump's announcement, advisers in his administration have reportedly scrambled to slow or derail the withdrawal by warning that Daesh has not yet been defeated, in spite of losing an estimated 99 percent of the territory the militants previously amassed in Syria and Iraq.

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