Negotiations on the so-called safe zone in Syria continue as Washington and Ankara have yet to reach a final agreement on the perimeter and governance of the area.
Ankara has insisted on the zone to go as deep as 30-40 kilometers (19-25 miles) east of the Euphrates River along its border with Syria, be controlled jointly by Turkey and the United States, and be completely cleared of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization, and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, cited by NTV, that work on safe zone continues as scheduled with Washington, noting that Ankara has completed preparations along its border.
“…Our planning for this 480-kilometer safe zone is actually a depth that covers the 20-mile understanding that Trump [US President Donald Trump] also expressed. With a planned study, we may have a chance to resettle about 1 to 2 million Syrians here. We want to get these people out of the tents and container cities, along with the buildings that are built with local architecture in areas between 150 and 400 square meters”, Erdogan said, cited by the NTV broadcaster.
“…We have taken all measures across the border in the process of this timetable. In addition to these measures, we have recently flown our aircraft in the region. Our planes have already given signals that we are continuing this process by flying in the area. So it’s probably not for nothing that our planes are flying here. It’s not just navigation”, Erdogan stressed.
The idea of establishing a buffer safe zone as a solution to tensions between Turkey and the US-allied YPG militia was proposed by US President Donald Trump in January.
Shortly before that, Erdogan warned that Ankara was ready to launch an offensive against the YPG in the then-Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Manbij. However, following a phone conversation with Trump, he announced postponing the operation. Trump, in turn, announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria after the call.
Ankara has been fighting the PKK, which seeks to legitimise Kurdish autonomy in Turkey, since the 1980s. In 2013, they agreed on a ceasefire but it collapsed two years later after Ankara blamed several terrorist attacks on PKK militants.
Issue of F-35 Jets Not Yet Resolved
Erdogan noted that the issue of F-35 jets program is not completely resolved, adding that Ankara has proposed the Trump administration ink a deal on US Patriot missile defence systems only if Washington’s offer could match Russia’s S-400 deal, according to the NTV.
“We can’t say that the F-35 has been fully resolved yet. But I made them my offer. I said,” besides the S-400, we can get a Patriot from you.” I said that to Mr. Trump personally. And they said,” if this is serious, let’s work on it.” I’m making you a serious offer. If you can get this through Congress, we can do our work on it. The same way we got the S-400, the offer that’s coming to us about it doesn’t really have to look for it. In the event of such an offer, we would have provided an alternative defence system to Turkey”, Erdogan said, cited by the NTV broadcaster.
Moscow and Ankara signed an agreement for the delivery of four Russian S-400 batteries worth $2.5 billion in December 2017.
The United States has repeatedly objected to Ankara’s purchase of the S-400, saying the weapon system is incompatible with NATO security standards and might compromise operations of the new fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets.
Washington in July suspended Turkey’s participation in the F-35 international program over the purchase of the S-400s, adding that the country would be completely removed from the project by late March 2020.
In late August, Erdogan said that his government and Moscow were conducting negotiations pertaining to the potential acquisition of Russian Su-57 fighters.
Turkey to Continue Oil, Gas Trade with Iran
Speaking to reporters on his return flight from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Erdogan said that it was impossible for Turkey to stop buying oil and natural gas from Iran, despite the threat of US sanctions.
“…It is not possible for us to reset our relationship with Iran at the point of oil and gas. We’ll take our gas from there again. But we have a problem with oil. The private sector was mostly buying oil. Unfortunately, iit is not buying the oil right now because he’s wary of threats from the United States. But we will continue our relationship with Iran, especially on many other issues”, Erdogan said, cited by the NTV broadcaster.
In June, the United Stated imposed sanctions on Iran’s largest and most profitable petrochemical holding group, Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, and 39 of its subsidiaries for allegedly providing support to the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Washington has designated a terrorist organization.