Turkey discussing Syria offensive with Russia, U.S., says defence official

Turkey is discussing a potential military offensive with the United States and Russia in the Kurdish-controlled northeast of Syria, Turkish news site Gazete Duvar quoted a defence official as saying on Tuesday.

"On preparations for the east of the Euphrates, which is still on the agenda, coordination with the United States and Russia in particular continue," defence ministry spokeswoman Nadide Şebnem Aktop said.

Ankara is looking to set up a safe zone in the border area east of the Euphrates River, an idea that was suggested by U.S. President Donald Trump in a tweet on Jan. 13, 2018 after the announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria.

Ankara’s plans for a "safe zone" along its border with Kurdish-held Syria aims to remove the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG), which it sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group that has been in war in Turkey for over 30 years.

The United States has supported the YGP, which has fighting remnants of the caliphate declared by Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Aktop also said that  coordination between Ankara and Moscow over the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib, where the two countries agreed to establish a de-militarised buffer zone, continued successfully "despite provocations".

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar last week said Russian forces would begin patrols on the border region outside Idlib and Turkish forces would start patrols inside the zone.

Turkey and Russia were also coordinating joint patrols in the region of northern Syrian town of Tel Rifaat, which is controlled by Kurdish-led forces, Aktop said.