Following a US decision to withdraw from northern Syria last year, the two NATO allies had agreed to create a sanctuary in the region that would be cleared of the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist outfit.

A man is seen preparing mortar with the children around him on September 26, 2018. Syrians started to repair their homes in Habit village in southern Idlib as they returned their hometown following Sochi peace talks.
A man is seen preparing mortar with the children around him on September 26, 2018. Syrians started to repair their homes in Habit village in southern Idlib as they returned their hometown following Sochi peace talks. (Saed Zaydan / AA)

Turkish and US officials will continue to discuss a planned safe zone in northern Syria, Turkish military officials said on Thursday after Ankara warned that it would launch a cross-border operation if a deal was not reached.

Following a US decision to withdraw from northern Syria last year, the two NATO allies agreed to create a safe zone in the region that would be cleared of the YPG group, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist outfit.

The PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist group by the US, EU and Turkey, has waged an armed campaign against the Turkish state that has claimed at least 40,000 lives.

Turkey has been infuriated by US support for the YPG - which the United States has armed and trained under the pretext of fighting Daesh- and has demanded that Washington sever ties.

Ankara argues the supporting a terror group to fight another terror group makes no sense.

After US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey held talks with Turkish officials, Turkey said on Wednesday it had run "out of patience" with Washington and warned that it would carry out a military operation in the region if an agreement on the safe zone was not reached.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the United States was stalling progress on the safe zone, just as it did with a joint roadmap agreed to clear the northern Syrian town of Manbij of the YPG last year.

At a briefing in Ankara on Thursday, Turkish military officials said talks on the planned safe zone with the United States would continue, but reiterated that Turkey's expectations on the Manbij roadmap had not been met.

"Work is planned to continue in the coming period. We cannot share details as efforts are underway. Our aims are clear. The Turkish army is the only force capable of doing this," one of the officials said regarding the safe zone.

"Despite all our work, the end-goal of the Manbij Roadmap, which is for the area to be cleared of the YPG, for heavy arms to be collected, and a local administration to be formed, has not been reached. There are still around 1,000 terrorists in the region," the official said, referring to the YPG.

Earlier this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish military would launch an offensive into northern Syria to clear the region of YPG terrorists.

However, the operation was later put on hold after President Donald Trump's decision to pull US troops out of the region. Turkey has since said that Washington has stymied progress and warned that it would mount its offensive if necessary.

Source: Reuters