Turkish and US troops have conducted their third joint ground patrol today within the area of the planned safe zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border, Ankara’s Defence Ministry reported.
The ministry announced the patrol on Twitter, stating that the “third land patrol within the planned safe zone started east of Euphrates River and Tal Abyad with the participation of the U.S. and Turkish army personnel, land vehicles and UAVs [drones].”
Suriye’de Fırat’ın doğusunda Güvenli Bölge tesisi kapsamında üçüncü birleşik kara devriyesi; TSK ve ABD personeli, kara araçları ve İHA’ların iştirakiyle Telabyad’ın doğusunda başladı.#MSB #TSK pic.twitter.com/uoox7fD7U1
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) October 4, 2019
The ground patrol follows two previous excursions conducted in the areas allocated for the establishment of the long-awaited safe zone in northern and north-east Syria, the first of which took place on 9 September.
This third joint patrol comes almost two months after the US and Turkey struck an agreement to cooperate and work together to set up a joint cooperation centre near the Syrian border, following months of talks in which Turkey warned that it would conduct its own military operation into northern Syria and establish the zone itself if no agreement was made.
The reason for Turkey’s insistence on the establishment of the safe zone and its potential resort to a third military operation into northern Syria was the presence of Kurdish militias such as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), currently entrenched east of the Euphrates River in particular, which Turkey sees as a national security threat. This, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw it, would be to achieve two things at once: the clearing of the Kurdish militias from its border region with Syria and the placement of around two million refugees in that safe zone, providing the displaced Syrians with a new home in their country of origin.
Since the start of the two countries’ cooperation, however, the US has reportedly been delaying the process and obstructing many of Turkey’s demands, such as the length and depth of the safe zone and its desire to govern the zone itself.
Today’s joint patrol has been conducted despite the US’ alleged delays which only a few days ago prompted Erdogan to state that Turkey must take its own course in setting up the safe zone and that it must go through the process alone.