US officials meet Turkish counterparts on potential safe passage in northern Syria

A US military delegation will arrive in Ankara today to discuss the creation of a safe zone in northeast Syria

turkey syria border

Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty

A US military delegation will arrive in Ankara today to discuss the creation of a safe zone in northeast Syria with Turkish officials.

Turkey has sought to establish a buffer zone along its northeastern border with Syria for over a year, as the territory is currently controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG)—a group the US relied on to fight ISIS. Turkey considers the YPG an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party, a domestic separatist group designated a terrorist organisation by the US. As such, Turkey considers the YPG’s presence along its border a national security threat.

While Washington and Ankara agree to the need for a safe zone, both parties remain some distance apart on the specific details of the project. For example, Ankara wants the buffer zone to be at least 30 kilometres deep, whereas the US has suggested it should be half of that at most. Turkey also wants full control of the buffer zone, which the US fears would threaten the YPG and thus delegitimise its own presence in the region.

These differences mean an agreement is unlikely to be reached today, raising the possibility that Ankara will establish a buffer zone unilaterally. Doing so would not only further strain Washington and Ankara’s already frayed relations, but put the two at odds militarily, raising serious questions over the future of their alliance.

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