Original article by Karwan Faidhi Dri
A spokesperson for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) denied claims that Turkish troops will be allowed permanent posts in the proposed northern Syria buffer zone, adding that there will also be no Syrian proxies of Turkey or observation points in the area.
Mustafa Bali told Rojava Information Center, a monitor with ties to the SDF, that Turkish forces will enter the zone – but once they “complete the patrol, [they] will return to their country.”
Patrols will be conducted “perhaps once every fortnight, or once a month” over the duration of the buffer zone agreement, he added.
Bali’s statement follows a claim by two unnamed Turkish officials – not wanting to be identified for fear of repercussions – who told Bloomberg on Sunday that the US has agreed to the deployment of two Turkish soldiers for every American soldier.
Turkey has 12 observation points in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, following an agreement with Russia – the main backer of the Syrian regime.
However, Bali said the construction of observation points would not take place on SDF-controlled territory.
“Observation points will be built, but on Turkish soil. A system like they have in Idlib is unacceptable,” he said.
US and Turkish military officials agreed on the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria, to be developed into a “peace corridor” for the return of 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, on August 7.
They also agreed to establish a joint operation center in the province of Sanliurfa, on the Turkish border with Syria, which began operating at “full capacity” on Saturday, according to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, reported the state-owned Anadolu Agency. The first helicopter carrying Turkish and US commanders flew over the East of Euphrates on Saturday.
“In addition, the destruction of terrorist emplacements and fortifications began,” Akar added.
The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a tweet a day earlier that the SDF “destroyed military fortifications” on Thursday “to support implementation of the security mechanism framework.”
The depth and length of the buffer zone was a point of contention between the US, Turkey and the SDF. Turkey demanded a 30-40 kilometre-deep safe zone while both the US and the SDF proposed one of up to 14 kilometers.
However, Mazloum Abdi, commander of the SDF, said on August 16 that they had later demanded a longer and deeper safe zone.
“If there is an agreement, it should cover all areas of northeast Syria,” Abdi said in an interview with the SDF-affiliated Hawar News.
The two unnamed officials, who spoke to Bloomberg said that the US and Turkey have agreed on a 125km long, 15 km deep zone in Serekaniye [Ain al-Issa] and Tel-Abyad – two mostly Arab regions under the control of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES), otherwise known as Rojava.
They also claimed that Turkey has already deployed 10 brigades to its borders with the SDF, in the first phase of a campaign to drive out all Kurdish fighters in Syria.
The SDF is primarily composed of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) – considered by Turkey as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK and Turkey have been locked in a four-decade long, often armed, struggle, killing over 40,000 people including civilians. Turkey considers the PKK – and by extension, the YPG – to be a terrorist organization.