Hulusi Akar says Syria safe zone centre with US fully operational
Joint Operation Center with US begins work at full capacity, and first joint helicopter flight started today, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement on Saturday as being quoted by Turkey's state-run news agency. The minister also added that Turkey would use right of self defense to full extent in case of attack on Turkish observatory posts, presence in Idlib.
A joint Turkish-U.S. operation centre to establish and manage a safe zone in northeast Syria is fully operational, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as saying on Saturday by the state-owned Anadolu news agency.
Turkey and the United States agreed to set up the joint operations centre for the proposed zone along Syria's northeastern border but gave few details, such as the size of the zone or the command structure of the forces that would operate there.
"The joint operation centre has started working at full capacity. The command of centre is by one U.S. general and one Turkish general," Akar was quoted as saying.
"Field applications of the first phase started," said Hulusi Akar in the Aegean province Izmir, adding that the first joint helicopter flight between the two NATO allies would be taking place in the afternoon.
"In addition, the destruction of terrorist emplacements and fortifications began," Akar stressed.
Turkish and U.S. military officials on Aug. 7 agreed to set up a safe zone and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians, who seek to return their home. They also agreed to establish a joint operation center.
The agreement also envisaged to set up the necessary security measures to address Turkey's security concerns.
Referring to the Turkish cross-border operations, Akar said a total of 654 terrorists were neutralized over the last eight months in northern Iraq.
He added that Operation Claw 3, launched on Friday in the Sinat-Haftanin region, continued successfully.
Referring to Turkish observation posts in Idlib in northwestern Syria, Akar underlined that Turkey would use its right of self defense in full if an attack were to occur on Turkish observatory posts and presence in the region.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the zone.
The de-escalation zone is currently home to some 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from throughout the war-weary country.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.