Turkey says United States stalling on safe zone

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Tuesday accused the United States of taking only cosmetic steps toward the establishment of a safe zone in northeast Syria and reiterated their threat to take unilateral military action, the Associated Press reported

Last month, Turkish and U.S. officials agreed to set up a safe zone and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the return of displaced Syrians currently living in Turkey. The deal prioritises measures necessary to address Turkey's security concerns, including pushing out Kurdish militia that Ankara views as part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that has been waging an armed insurgency in Turkey for 35 years. 

“We see that the U.S. wants to enter a stalling process,” said Çavuşoğlu. “On the one side, (the U.S.) is taking cosmetic steps with us. On the other side, it is strengthening its engagement with" Syrian Kurdish fighters.

On Saturday, U.S. troops conducted joint patrols with Kurdish forces along the Turkish border. On Sunday, U.S. forces conducted joint patrols with Turkey nearby.  

Four weeks ago, Çavuşoğlu warned the United States against any attempt to slow down the process to carve out a safe zone. “A U.S. stalling tactic will not work,” he said, citing a troubled 2018 U.S.-Turkey security deal over the northern Syrian town of Manbij. 

Two U.S. military officials are in Turkey to discuss plans for the safe zone. A delegation headed by Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty, deputy commander of U.S. European Command, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeson, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, met Turkish officials on Tuesday and were expected to hold further talks at the joint operations center in southeast Turkey on Wednesday, according to the defence ministry.