Turkey will launch an operation in Syria if a safe zone is not established, Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs says, as US envoy James Jeffrey meets senior officials in Ankara and regime and Russia step up deadly attacks in de-escalation zones.
The US Syria envoy landed in Turkey for two-days of talks on the war in Syria, counter-terrorism and security amid Russian and the Syrian regime attacks on demilitarised zones and Ankara's warnings that a military operation south of its border was on the cards.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday Ankara will launch a military operation east of the Euphrates river if a planned safe zone in northern Syria is not established and if threats continue against Turkey.
"If the safe zone is not established and threats towards our country continue, we will launch the operation in the east of the Euphrates," he said.
Turkey has been in talks with the US over the establishment of a safe zone across its border in north-east Syria, where Washington supports the PYD/YPG-dominated SDF militia in a battle against Daesh in Syria.
The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organisation. In its 30-year terror campaign against the Turkish state more than 40,000 people, including women and children, have been killed.
Turkey, the US and the EU recognise the PKK as a terrorist organisation.
"Ambassador Jeffrey is leading an inter-agency delegation to continue discussions with senior Turkish officials to advance issues of mutual interest on Syria to include, addressing Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, the implementation of UNSCR 2254 on the resolution of the Syrian conflict, and our continued efforts to ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS [Daesh]," the US Department of State said on Sunday.
James Jeffrey, who also serves as the US special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, is holding meetings with senior Turkish officials in Ankara on Monday and Tuesday.
Cavusoglu also said he hopes an agreement will be reached after talks on Monday with Jeffrey.
The Turkish foreign minister said talks with the United States on the safe zone have slowed, adding that Turkey told Washington that it should not use the fighting in Syria's north-western Idlib province as a pretext for disregarding the proposed safe zone further east.
Cavusoglu repeated Turkey's frustration that a deal with the United States for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the town of Manbij had still not been implemented, more than a year after it was agreed, and warned that Turkey will act unilaterally if talks on the safe zone stall.
"The Americans sent Jeffrey and said there were new proposals in the talks that will start today. We hope an agreement can be reached on this. Concrete steps are needed on this now."
Jeffrey’s visit came upon an invitation by the Turkish government, according to the written statement by the State Department.