U.S., Turkey agree Ankara to primarily control Syria 'safe zone'
Turkey, US agreed on the conditions on ground, northeast Syria in particular, necessitating closer coordination on basis of common interests, according to a joint statement released after the high-level meeting held by the Turkish and American delegations at the Beştepe Presidential Complex in the capital Ankara on Thursday.
Turkey will primarily enforce a "safe zone" in northern Syria, according to a joint statement with the United States after high-level talks in Ankara at which the sides agreed the Turkey-led forces would pause cross-border military operation in the northeastern region of Syria to clear the YPG militants out of the conflict-ravaged region.
Under the agreement the NATO allies reached on Thursday, Turkey would stop its operation for five days in northern Syria against the YPG -- viewed by Ankara as Syrian extension of the bloody-minded PKK terror group --, while it withdraws from a region along the Turkish border.
The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces and the two sides will increase their cooperation in all dimensions of its implementation," said the statement.
"The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow the withdrawal of YPG from the safe zone within 120 hours. Operation Peace Spring will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal," it stressed.
Turkey, US agreed on the operations must target only terrorists, their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons, vehicles, equipment, the joint statement added.
Speaking after four hours of meetings between delegations from both sides, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Ankara had gotten what it wanted.
"We will pause Operation Peace Spring for PKK/YPG to leave the safe zone. This is not a ceasefire - ceasefires can only happen between two legitimate sides," he told a news conference.
"When the terrorist elements completely leave the safe zone, we can stop the operation," Çavuşoğlu said.
In the joint statement, Ankara, Washington reiterated the commitment to political unity, Syria's territorial integrity, UN-led political process.
"The two sides agreed on the continued importance and functionality of a safe zone in order to address the national security concerns of Turkey, to include the re-collection of YPG heavy weapons and the disablement of their fortifications and all other fighting positions," it added.
The statement also highlighted that when the Operation Peace Spring -- Turkey's anti-terror operation in northern Syria -- is halted, the U.S. current sanctions will be lifted.
With an understanding of "one for all and all for one," they also remain committed to protecting NATO territories and NATO populations against all threats.
Turkey and the U.S. also reiterated "their pledge to uphold human life, human rights, and the protection of religious and ethnic communities".
Remaining articles of the "Joint Turkish-U.S. Statement on Northeast Syria" are as follows:
5. Turkey and the U.S. are committed to D-ISIS/DAESH activities in northeast Syria. This will include coordination on detention facilities and internally displaced persons from formerly ISIS/DAESH-controlled areas, as appropriate.
6. Turkey and the U.S. agree that counter-terrorism operations must target only terrorists and their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons, vehicles and equipment.
7. The Turkish side expressed its commitment to ensure safety and well-being of residents of all population centers in the safe zone controlled by the Turkish Forces (safe zone) and reiterated that maximum care will be exercised in order not to cause harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.
8. Both countries reiterate their commitment to the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and UN-led political process, which aims at ending the Syrian conflict in accordance with UNSCR 2254.
9. The two sides agreed on the continued importance and functionality of a safe zone in order to address the national security concerns of Turkey, to include the re-collection of YPG heavy weapons and the disablement of their fortifications and all other fighting positions.
10. The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces and the two sides will increase their cooperation in all dimensions of its implementation.
11. The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow the withdrawal of YPG from the safe zone within 120 hours. Operation Peace Spring will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal.
12. Once Operation Peace Spring is paused, the US agrees not to pursue further imposition of sanctions under the Executive Order of October 14, 2019, Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Syria, and will work and consult with Congress, as appropriate, to underline the progress being undertaken to achieve peace and security in Syria, in accordance with UNSCR 2254. Once Operation Peace Spring is halted as per paragraph 11 the current sanctions under the aforementioned Executive Order shall be lifted.
In the last article, both parties expressed their commitment to work together to implement all the goals in the statement.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria on Oct. 9 in order to secure Turkey's borders, aid the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria's territorial integrity.
Ankara wants to clear the region east of the Euphrates River of the terrorist PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the YPG.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the European Union -- has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.