3-5 helicopter flights and 5-10 vehicle patrols insufficient to form safe zone in northern Syria: Erdoğan
"Turkey, US discuss safe zone in N.Syria but with every step taken we see what we want doesn't match what is in their mind," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in televised remarks on Sunday. The president also underlined that it was insufficient to form a safe zone in northern Syria with 3-5 helicopter flights, 5-10 vehicle patrols and a few hundred soldiers in the area.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking hours after joint U.S.-Turkey patrols began in northern Syria, said on Sunday Ankara and Washington have constantly disagreed over establishing the planned "safe zone."
"If de facto formation of a safe zone east of the Euphrates River with Turkish soldiers is not initiated by the end of September, Turkey has no choice but to set out on its own," Erdoğan said in his speech during a mass opening ceremony in eastern Malatya province.
"We are negotiating with the U.S. for the safe zone, but we see at every step that what we want and what they have in mind is not the same thing," he said.
"It seems that our ally is looking for a safe zone for the [YPG/PKK] terrorist organization, not for us. We reject such understanding," Turkish leader added.
Touching on the joint patrols conducted by U.S. and Turkish troops in the northern region of Syria, Erdoğan said: "It is insufficient to form a safe zone in northern Syria with 3-5 helicopter flights, 5-10 vehicle patrols and a few hundred soldiers in the area."
"It seems Turkey's ally is after a safe zone in N.Syria not for Turkey but for the terrorist group. We reject such an approach," Erdoğan stressed.
The president also stressed that Turkey needed to effectively secure entire region of safe zone in northern Syria to settle 1 million displaced people.
Earlier in the day, Turkey and the U.S. military personnel completed the first joint ground patrol for establishment of a safe zone east of Euphrates in Syria.
The patrol was backed by unmanned air vehicles and helicopters.
The president also stressed that Turkey needs to effectively secure the entire region of the safe zone in N.Syria to settle 1 million people there.
"We want to create an area cleared of Daesh along with PKK and its extensions PYD-YPG-SDG, only in this way we can ensure that our Syrian brothers and sisters living in our country, in Europe or elsewhere can return to their homes and live in peace and security."
The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of terror group PKK, which has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people in Turkey, including many children, women, and infants, for more than 30 years.
Erdoğan underlined that nobody can force "innocent people" to live under the threat of terrorist organizations or "cruel regime forces".
"Neither in the east of the Euphrates River nor in Syria's Idlib, we will consent to such an inhuman situation," he said.
He also stressed that Turkey is making intensive efforts in cooperation with Russia and Iran to prevent the Syrian regime's "new massacres" in country's northwestern Idlib area.
On Aug. 7, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed to set up a safe zone in northern Syria and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians who want to return home. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center.
The agreement also envisaged setting up necessary security measures to address Turkey's security concerns, including clearing the zone of the terrorist YPG/PKK, a group the U.S. has sometimes been allied with, over Turkey's objections.