Turkey’s Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, said on February 15 that only Turkish forces should be deployed within the planned safe zone in northeastern Syria.
“The safe zone isn’t for Turkey alone, but also for the safe return of Syrian refugees who have had to leave their homes back to their country. Only Turkey should be present in the safe zone,” Akra said at the Munich Security Conference, according to the Anadolu Agency.
The Turkish minister also claimed that the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which control northeastern Syria, are the same as the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Akar warned that the upcoming withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria could give a room to these groups and stressed that his country will not allow this to happen.
“Clearing the YPG terror organization from Syria is of utmost importance for the security of our borders and people … The vacuum that will emerge after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria should not provide a safe haven for terrorists,” The minister said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the situation in northeastern Syria with his Russia and Iranian counterparts in the Russian city of Sochi a day earlier. During the meeting, the Turkish President hoped that Moscow and Tehran will support his country’s effort to establish a safe-zone in the region.
“Turkey will in no way allow the formation of a terrorist corridor on its southern borders. In this regard, we expect support from our Astana partners,” Erdogan said.
Turkey is yet to reach a final agreement with the U.S. on the proposed safe-zone in northeastern Syria. Russia and Iran, which are both calling for the deployment of the Syrian army in the region, also appear to be not excited about the Turkish plan.