Turkish YPG
© AFP 2019/ Delil Souleiman
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and US Syria Envoy James Jeffrey held talks in Ankara to discuss the establishment of a safe zone in Syria east to the Euphrates river that would be free from PKK and YPG, whom Ankara views as a single organization and considers to be terrorists, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.

Jeffrey is currently in Ankara for a two-day official visit to discuss settlement of the Syrian crisis and fight against the Daesh* terrorist organization.

"During the meeting recent developments in Syria, especially the establishment of a safe zone in the east of the Euphrates river and the fight against DAESH [IS] were discussed. Minister Akar told Ambassador Jeffrey that the safe zone in the east of the Euphrates river should be established by Turkey and the United States in a coordinated manner, and elements of the PKK / YPG terrorist group should be cleared from this area, their entrenchments and fortifications should be destroyed and heavy weapons in their hands should be collected ... It was also agreed at the meeting that the military delegations of both countries would continue their joint work on the establishment of the Safe Zone starting tomorrow at the Ministry of Defense in Ankara," the statement read.

According to the text, Akar told Jeffrey that Turkey feels irritated by high-level meetings of military and civilian US officials with the leaders of YPG, which Turkey designates as a terrorist organization. He also stressed the importance of creating conditions for the Syrian refugees to repatriate.

The Turkish government has been fighting the PKK, which seeks to establish a Kurdish autonomy in Turkey, since the early 1980s. Turkish security forces carry out regular anti-PKK raids across the country and in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

Last December, Erdogan announced that Ankara was ready to launch an offensive against the Kurdish militia in then Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Manbij. However, following a phone conversation with US President Donald Trump, the Turkish president said that the operation had been postponed. Trump, in turn, announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria after that call.

In January, Trump proposed the establishment of a buffer safe zone as a solution to decrease tensions between Turkey and the US-allied Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units militia. Negotiations on the safe zone continue as the two countries have yet to reach a final agreement on how deep the safe zone should be and what Ankara's role in Syria would be.