Turkish, US officials meet for talks on Syria safe zone

Turkish and American military officials met Monday for negotiations about establishing a safe zone in northeastern Syria to address Ankara’s concerns about U.S-allied Syrian Kurdish-led forces in that region.

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The Turkish defense ministry tweeted that the meetings were taking place in Ankara.

Turkey wants to control — in coordination with the U.S. — a 19-25 mile-deep zone within Syria, east of the Euphrates River, and wants no Syrian Kurdish forces there. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.

American troops are stationed in northeastern Syria, along with the Kurdish forces, and have fought the Islamic State group together.

In recent weeks, Turkish-U.S. negotiations on the safe zone stalled, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened a new military operation. On Sunday, Erdogan renewed that threat.

For their part, the Syrian Kurds say Ankara’s statements mask a grab of territory inside Syria that the Kurdish forces had liberated from IS militants.

The Syrian Democratic Council issued a statement on Monday saying that its military wing — the U.S-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces — is a “force to defend” Syria’s ethnic and cultural pluralism.

The council added that Ankara “is trying to deceive the public” and to get the U.S. and other parties to “participate in the crimes that Turkey is committing against humanity.”

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