A fighter from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fires an anti-aircraft gun mounted on a pickup truck in Syria's Idlib province on Wednesday. Omar Haj Kadour/ AFP
Damascus said on Thursday it rejects a US-Turkish plan to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria, blaming Syria’s Kurds for the proposal, state media said.
“Syria categorically and blatantly rejects the agreement between the American and Turkish occupiers on the establishment of a so-called safe zone” in northern Syria, a foreign ministry source told state news agency SANA.
“Syria’s Kurds who have accepted to become a tool in this aggressive US-Turkish project bear a historical responsibility” the source added, urging Kurdish groups to return to the fold.
Turkish and US officials agreed on Wednesday to establish a joint operations centre to oversee the creation of a safe zone to manage tensions between Ankara and US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.
No details were provided on the size or nature of the safe zone, but the deal appeared to provide some breathing room after Turkey had threatened an imminent attack on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which control a large swathe of northern Syria.
Damascus said the planned zone “serves Turkey’s expansionist ambitions,” accusing both Ankara and Washington of violating its sovereignty.
A senior Syrian Kurdish official gave the deal a guarded welcome.
“This deal may mark the start of a new approach but we still need more details,” Aldar Khalil told AFP on Thursday.
“We will evaluate the agreement based on details and facts, not headlines.”
The YPG has been a key US ally in the fight against Daesh.
But Ankara views it as a “terrorist” offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for the past 35 years.
As the fight against Daesh winds down in northeastern Syria, the prospect of a US military withdrawal has stoked Kurdish fears of a long threatened Turkish attack.
In recent weeks, Turkish media have repeatedly shown images of military convoys heading for the border area, carrying equipment and fighting units.
Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syria, including one in 2018 that saw it and allied Syria rebels overrun the majority Kurdish Afrin enclave in the northwest.
Turkey hopes the buffer zone, which it says should be at least 30 kilometres (19 miles) deep, will keep Syrian Kurdish fighters, considered a threat by Turkey but US allies in the fight against the Daesh group, away from its border.
About 30 trailers and Hummers carrying heavier duty equipment crossed, with troops in cars coming through, the source added. A second security source in Mosul also said US troops had crossed into Iraq from Sahela.
France said on Monday it was taking measures to ensure the safety of its military and civilian personnel in northeastern Syria as the United States begins to withdraw its forces
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Bloomberg described Sheikh Mohamed as the peacemaker in the Middle East, after he revolutionized the geopolitics by announcing the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time in the region, after the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, 26 years ago.