Turkish, U.S. troops inspect removed fortifications in northeast Syria

(Releads with Turkish and U.S. troops inspecting removed fortifications)

Turkish troops inspected the progress of removing Kurdish fortifications in northern Syria in their third joint ground patrol with U.S. soldiers in a planned safe zone on Friday, the U.S Special Operation Joint Task Force said on Twitter. 

Turkey and the United States agreed in August to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria. Turkey sees the plan as a safeguard against what it sees as threats to its national security posed by Kurdish-led groups that control northeast Syria, but the two countries have not agreed on the size of the zone and who will control it.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Turkey was ready to take its own measures in northern Syria due to what he said was unsatisfactory progress in efforts to push back the Kurdish militias and establish the safe zone. 

“U.S. Forces provide the Turkish military with the opportunity to view the progress of fortification removal during a patrol Oct. 4 in northeast Syria. Verification is critical to ensure we are addressing security concerns in the security mechanism zone,” the U.S Special Operation Joint Task Force said alongside photographs of Turkish and U.S. troops near what appeared to be the border fence.

The Turkish Defence Ministry said on Twitter earlier on Friday that the third U.S.-Turkish ground patrol was carried out east of the Syrian town of Tel Abyad with the help of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The first joint ground patrol of Turkish and U.S. troops took place on Sept. 9. 

In a phone call with his U.S. counterpart Marl Esper on Thursday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated Turkey’s demand to establish a 30-km deep safe zone in northeast Syria and said Turkey would end joint efforts if it saw delays and any stalling of the plans, according to a readout on the Turkish Defence Ministry’s website.

The minister said Turkey expected the United States to end its support for the Syrian Democratic Forces and its affiliate, the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which form the backbone of U.S.-led coalition forces that largely defeated Islamic State. Turkey sees the YPG as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for more than three decades.