Syria incursion tops agenda at Turkey’s military council – Turkish media

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to discuss a military operation against Kurdish militants in northeast Syria with the council that sets Turkey’s defence policy, Turkish media reports said on Monday.

Erdoğan, back in Turkey after visiting New York for the United Nations General Assembly last week, is presiding over the National Security Council (MGK) meeting in Ankara on Monday.

The plans agreed with the United States to create a “safe zone” south of Turkey’s border with Syria will be at the top of the MGK’s agenda, according to Turkish press reports. So, too, will the unilateral military action threatened by Turkey if it deems the safe zone efforts to have stalled.

Ankara views the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led groups that control northeast Syria as terrorists due to their links to outlawed Kurdish militants in Turkey and wishes to push those groups away from its borders.

The safe zone plan was agreed on Aug. 7 as a way to prevent a Turkish operation, but Erdoğan has repeatedly threatened to press on with an attack if sufficient progress is not made by the end of September.

With that deadline drawing to a close, the MGK will discuss a plan of action for a military operation, pro-government daily Sabah reported.

Erdoğan said before his visit to the UNGA that he expected to discuss Syria with U.S. President Donald Trump during a face-to-face meeting in New York, but no official meeting took place.

On Thursday, the Turkish president said the safe zone plans were proceeding according to schedule. Hours later, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said progress had been unsatisfactory due to ongoing disagreements over the extent of the zone.

Turkey wants the safe zone to extend 32 km south of its border, and has revealed plans to build new settlements in the area to rehouse between 1 million and 3 million displaced Syrians. There are currently more than 3.6 million registered Syrian asylum seekers hosted in Turkey, and their presence has been a source of serious discontent among Turks in recent years.

U.S. officials agreed that the safe zone could double as a “peace corridor” for the return of Syrians, but their Kurdish partners have said they will only accept Syrians who were originally from the region. The Kurdish side is also unwilling to accept a 32-km-deep safe zone, which would encompass important settlements.