Agreement reached to postpone Turkish incursion into Syria

A Turkish flag flies among others flags of NATO members during a North Atlantic Council meeting alliance headquarters in Brussels Belgium

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu's comments came a day after the US and Turkey announced they agreed to form a joint operations center to set up the safe zone.

-Turkish agreement represented a "blatant attack" on Syria's sovereignty and territorial unity and a "dangerous escalation".

Turkish and United States officials reached agreement Wednesday to establish a "joint operations centre" for northern Syria aimed at creating a safe zone to manage tensions between Turkey and a US-backed Kurdish militia.

"In that framework, to quickly create in Turkey a joint operation center to coordinate and manage the implementation of the safe zone with the United States".

The Syrian Kurdish fighters were the main fighting force on the ground against Islamic State militants in the area, and Washington has been hard pressed to protect its partners.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said this week it would be "unacceptable" if Turkey did begin clearing Syrian Kurdish troops, but he did not guarantee them protection.

The two countries, allies in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, said they agreed on the "rapid implementation of initial measures to address Turkey's security concerns". This came a day after Washington and Ankara announced plans for a joint headquarters but offered few details.

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"We can define yesterday's agreement as a very good start", Cavusoglu told reporters.

"Some are known to have passed through Turkey once leaving Isis as their defeat became apparent, taking the return path on the "jihadist highway" which brought tens of thousands of jihadist fighters and their families into Syria via Turkish soil, in both tacit and active collusion with the Turkish state".

Turkey has the highest number of Syrian refugees in the world at more than 3.6 million, and has faced increasing pressure domestically to speed up repatriations to peaceful parts of Syria.

Turkey sees the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and says the YPG group poses threat to the Turkish territory. Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, according to the United Nations refugee agency, and political pressure has been growing on Erdogan to begin sending Syrians back across the border.

Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syria, including one in 2018 that saw it and allied Syria rebels overrun the majority Kurdish Afrin enclave in the northwest. "What really mattered here was the issue of this step being taken on the east of the Euphrates, and this is now being realized together with the Americans".

"The partial [U.S.] drawdown occurred at a time when these fighters need additional training and equipping to build trust with local communities and to develop the human-based intelligence necessary to confront resurgent [ISIS] cells and insurgent capabilities in Syria", the report said.

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