Turkish president sees compromise on size of Syria safe zone

The planned U.S.-Turkey safe zone in northeast Syria will be narrower than the 20-mile (32-km) width sought by Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday, Diken news reported.  

Turkey and the United States last week opened a joint operations centre in southern Turkey to oversee the planned safe zone that Ankara sees as essential to eliminate threats from U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in northeast Syria.

Erdoğan told reporters that U.S. President Donald Trump failed to keep his promise about northern Syria, instead blaming the problems there on former President Barack Obama. 

“Their time in office has ended, do whatever you are going to do,” Diken quoted the president saying on the flight back from a one-day visit to Russia. “But he could not do it.”

Erdoğan said U.S. officials suggested a narrower zone than the 20-mile width initially proposed by the Obama administration. “They narrowed the depth even further,” Erdoğan said, without mentioning the exact size of the zone proposed by Washington. 

The president said he told Turkish officials to go ahead with the U.S. offer. “The process is now continuing in that way but we have absolutely not stopped our preparations,” Erdoğan said. “We are at the moment ready across the whole border.”

The U.S. Central Command said last week that the Kurdish-Led Syrian Democratic Forces had destroyed its military fortifications near the Turkish border, while the Kurdish press early this week reported that Kurdish forces had started to withdraw in compliance with the safe zone plan. 

Erdoğan said such moves were just for show and the Kurdish military presence was slightly lowered only in Kobane in northeast Syria. 

On Wednesday, the Turkish presidency said Erdoğan and Trump had discussed the situation in Syria over the phone.