US backs 'safe zone' in northern Syria, amid Turkey tensions

US backs 'safe zone' in northern Syria, amid Turkey tensions
A war-of-words between the US and Turkey, has seen the American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeal for calm.
2 min read
14 January, 2019
Turkey is building up its forces near Syria [Getty]

The US says it backs a safe zone in northern Syria and talks were underway to establish a security area in the tense region.

It comes amid tensions between rivals Turkey and US-backed Kurdish militias, who operate territories in northern Syria.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that talks were under way to establish a safe zone, for Syrian civilians.

"We want to make sure that the folks who fought with us to down the (Islamic State group) have security... and also that terrorists acting out of Syria aren't able to attack Turkey," Pompeo said.

"We want a secure border for all the parties," he said in the Saudi capital Riyadh, the latest leg of a whirlwind Middle East tour.

Washington is holding talks with all relevant sides about such a "safe zone", he added.

His comments came a day after US President Donald Trump in a tweet pushed for the creation of a 20-mile (30-kilometre) "safe zone", without giving further details on the plan, or where the area would be set up.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday said his country was "not against" a "security zone" in Syria.

However, Trump has also rattled Turkey with a direct threat issued on Twitter.

"[We] will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds," Trump tweeted, while pushing for the creation of a 20-mile (30-kilometre) "safe zone."

On Sunday Trump also urged the Kurds not to "provoke" Ankara.

Tensions have been high between the US and Turkey over the fate of Washington's Syrian Kurdish allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) are considered to be a "terrorist offshoot" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

They form the bulk of fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces - a coalition of Arab-Kurdish fighters taking part in a US-led operation against the Islamic State group.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on Monday said Ankara would "continue to fight against them all", referring to IS and the YPG.