Syrian Kurds reject Turkish control of proposed safe zone

Syria's Kurds on Wednesday rejected an agreement between Turkey and the United States to create a 20-mile safe zone under Turkish control within Syria’s borders, Agence France-Presse reported.

Adding to his Tuesday rejection of the safe zone, Kurdish political leader Aldar Khalil said the Kurds would accept only United Nations’ forces along the separation line between Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops to ward off any offensive.

"Other choices are unacceptable as they infringe on the sovereignty of Syria and the sovereignty of our autonomous region," Khalil told AFP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Ankara would set up a security zone in northern Syria, calling the agreement with the United States “historic”.

Also on Wednesday, Syria’s Foreign Ministry denounced the idea of a safe zone within the country’s borders. “Any step to undermine Syrian sovereignty will be regarded as outright aggression against and direct occupation of Syrian territory,” Zeina Khodr, senior correspondent for Al Jazeera, quoted the ministry as saying in a tweet.  

Turkey has welcomed the U.S.’ planned withdrawal from Syria announced last month, but the future of U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters has been a key sticking point.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have been the key U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), taking heavy losses in the campaign. Ankara regards the YPG as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has fought  for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984, and has sworn to attack them.

"Sadly, Trump wants to implement these safe regions through cooperation with Turkey. But any role for Turkey will upset the balance and the region will not be safe," Khalil said. "On the contrary, Turkey is a party (to the dispute) and any party cannot guarantee security.”

The proposed safe zone would include Syria’s settlements to the north of Raqqa and settlements to the north of a-Hasakah, passing through Sarrin, north Ayn Issa, Suluk, Ras al-Ayn, north of Tell Tamer,  Darbasiya, Amuda, Qamishli , Wardiyah, Tell Hamis, Al-Qahtaniyah , Al-Yarubiyah and Al-Malikiyah, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said on Tuesday.