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Turkey says meeting with US on Syria ‘positive’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (front, C), visits together with Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar (front L), Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak (back C) and other ministers and members of the Supreme Military Council Anitkabir, the mausoleum of the Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara on August 1, 2019. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Wednesday that talks with the US aimed at averting the need for a Turkish military intervention into northern Syria had been “positive”, according to state news agency Anadolu.

“We witnessed with satisfaction that our partners grew closer to our position. The meetings were positive and quite constructive,” Akar was quoted as saying as the talks in Ankara entered the third day.

Turkey has repeatedly warned that it is preparing an offensive into Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, which it sees as a terrorist offshoot of the PKK which has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for the past 35 years.

The US has supported the YPG as the main fighting force against the Islamic State group, and its defence officials have been meeting their Turkish counterparts in Ankara since Monday in a bid to prevent intervention.

“We would prefer to act together with our American ally. If that isn’t possible we have said multiple times that we will do what is necessary,” Akar told Anadolu.

All sides agree that a “safe zone” needs to be created in northern Syria to keep the YPG away from Turkey’s borders.

But Turkey, the US and the YPG differ on how large the neutral zone should be, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned in recent days that patience is running out.

“Turkey has the right to eliminate all threats against its national security,” he said in a televised speech on Tuesday. “God willing, we will carry the process started with (previous offensives into Syria) to the next stage very soon.”

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper countered that any unilateral action by Turkey would be “unacceptable”.

Turkey and the US are NATO allies but have grown increasingly estranged over a number of issues, including American support for the Kurds and Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian S-400 missile defence system.

Turkish media outlets have often shown images in recent weeks of military convoys heading for the border area, carrying equipment and fighting units.

Turkey has twice carried out unilateral offensives into northern Syria against the Islamic State group and YPG, in 2016 and 2018 respectively.


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