Turkey’s presence in Syria ‘short-term’, pledges US Syria representative

Turkey’s presence in Syria ‘short-term’, pledges US Syria representative
Turkey has pledged it has ‘no intention’ of staying in Syria in the long term, the US official told reporters following Thursday’s ceasefire talks.
2 min read
18 October, 2019
Turkish military vehicles enter Syria’s Hama province in March 2019 [Getty]

Turkey has promised the United States that its "safe zone" agreed in northern Syria will be short-term and also not result in mass displacement, a senior US official said Thursday, despite hundreds of thousands having already fled Turkey’s offensive.

"The Turks have reassured us many times that they have no intention - no intention whatsoever, from President Erdogan personally on down today - of staying in Syria very long," James Jeffrey, the US special representative on Syria, told reporters on board Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's plane.

He was speaking on his way to Israel from Ankara, where President Recep Tayyp Erdogan promised US Vice President Mike Pence that Turkey would suspend military operations for five days so fighters from the Kurdish YPG militia could pull out.

Comment: Cutting deals with the devil: US betrayal pushes Syria's Kurds into clutches of regime

According to the two sides, Turkey would enjoy a 32-kilometre (20-mile) deep "safe zone" on its border free of the YPG, whom Erdogan links to Kurdish separatists at home. 

While Pence said that the YPG's move out of the zone had already begun, Jeffrey acknowledged that the Kurdish fighters - close allies with the US in the fight against the Islamic State movement - were not happy. 

"We're basically doing our best efforts to get the YPG to withdraw using as a carrot and a stick the sanctions levers that we have," Jeffrey said. 

"There's no doubt that the YPG wishes that they could stay in these areas," he said. 

But he said that Turkey promised that it was only seeking to remove YPG fighters, not the Kurdish population as a whole. 

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"We hope that there will be no mass movement of people," Jeffrey said. "We were very, very strong and very, very insistent on that."

Turkey launched 'Operation Peace Spring' on 9 October to take territories from the SDF with thousands of Syrian fighters taking Tal Abyad and other border towns.

The offensive has already displaced more than 300,000 people, and killed over 100 including 71 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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