Turkey wants to set up 10 observation posts in northeast Syria - agency

Turkey wants to set up 10 observation posts in northeast Syria as a part of a deal with the United States on setting up what it calls a safe zone in the region, the Turkish pro-government Demirören News Agency (DHA) quoted unnamed military sources as saying.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly threatened to carry out a cross-border offensive into northeast Syria, where U.S. troops are stationed helping Syrian Kurdish forces defeat Islamic State (ISIS). The United States has averted the immediate threat of a Turkish invasion by agreeing to set up a joint operation centre to plan setting up a safe zone in the area.

The two NATO allies began work to establish a joint operations centre in the Turkish southeastern border province of Şanlıurfa this week and a U.S. military delegation arrived there on Monday to carry out inspections. 

The Turkish Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that Lieutenant General Stephen Twitty, deputy commander of the United States European Command, would arrive in Turkey to have meetings with his Turkish counterparts and visit Şanlıurfa to discuss the coordination of joint efforts. 

Turkey wants the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria as a national security priority, as it sees the People Protection Units (YPG), which controls most of northeast Syria, as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years. But the YPG makes up the bulk of U.S.-led coalition forces the defeated Islamic State in Syria. 

DHA said Turkey and the United States had so far had agreed on the routes for joint patrols and the points of entry for armoured vehicles into northern Syria. But differences of opinion over the depth of the safe zone persist, it said, with the United States proposing a 15-km zone and Turkey demanding at least a 32-km deep zone.

The agency said that after the safe zone was established, Turkey would establish 10 places east of the River Euphrates where armoured vehicles would serve as observation posts. The Syrian towns of Ayn al-Arab, Tel Abyad, Ras al-Ayn, Qamishli, al-Darbasiyah and Amuda are among places where the Turkish army would set up these posts and the number of posts could increase, it said.