US troops walk past a Turkish military vehicle during a joint patrol in the Syrian village of Al Hashisha. AFP
Turkish and US troops conducted their first joint ground patrol in northeastern Syria Sunday as part of a planned so-called "safe zone" that Ankara has been pressing for in the volatile region.
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.
This media journalists in the town of Tal Abyad saw about a dozen Turkish armored vehicles with the country's red flag standing along the border after crossing into Syria, and American vehicles about a mile away waiting. The two sides then came together in a joint patrol with American vehicles leading the convoy.
At least two helicopters hovered overhead. The Turkish Defense Ministry confirmed the start of the joint patrols and said unmanned aerial vehicles were also being used.
Washington has in the last years frequently found itself trying to forestall violence between its Nato ally Turkey and the Kurdish fighters it partnered with along the border to clear of Daesh militants.
An initial agreement between Washington and Ankara last month averted threats of a Turkish attack. But details of the deal are still being worked out in separate talks with Ankara and the Kurdish-led forces in Syria known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF.
Turkey, which has carried out several incursions into Syria in the course of the country's civil war in an effort to curb the expanding influence of the Kurdish forces, carried out joint patrols with US troops in the northern town of Manbij last year.
Sunday's joint patrol is the first one taking place east of the Euphrates River, where US troops have more presence, and as part of the safe zone that is being set up.
Anadolu Agency said six Turkish armored vehicles crossed into Syria on Sunday from the border town of Akcakale, opposite from Syria's Tal Abyad, and joined US vehicles for their first joint patrol of an area east of the Euphrates river.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Turkey would not allow the US to delay the establishment of a ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria, in comments published on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists that Washington was too strongly involved with US-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters and was stalling on plans for the safe zone.
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.
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