Turkey says Syria safe zone centre with U.S. fully operational

A joint Turkish-U.S. operation centre to work on a planned safe zone in north and east Syria, is fully operational, Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday.

"The joint operation center has started working at full capacity. The command of center is by one U.S. general and one Turkish general," state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Akar as saying.

The first joint helicopter flight was due to take place on Saturday after Turkish drones carried out surveillance work in the safe zone area last week, the Turkish defence minister said. 

The announcement on the formation of a joint operations centre was announced by Ankara and Washington earlier this month, following threats from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on an imminent military operation against the groups south of Turkey’s border.

Turkey and the United States have been at odds over plans for northeastern Syria, where the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia formed the main part of a U.S.-backed force fighting Islamic State (ISIS). 

Around 90 U.S. soldiers arrived in Turkey this week in hopes of an agreement on a safe zone that will be acceptable both to Turkey and the Syrian Kurdish autonomous administrations governing the north and east of Syria. 

Ankara views these administrations and their armed wings, such as the YPG, as a threat due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has fought Turkish security forces for Kurdish self-rule since the 1980s.