Turkish President sets two-week deadline for Syria safe zone
(Updated with Erdoğan's comments on two-week deadline for safe zone in third paragraph)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will discuss the progress in joint U.S.-Turkish efforts to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria during a critical meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump next week, Hürriyet daily reported on Wednesday.
Erdoğan and Trump are expected to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where the Turkish president is expected to deliver a speech.
Time is already running out for the safe zone to be implemented, Erdoğan said on Wednesday. "If we don't get results within the next fortnight, we will set our own plan in action," he said.
Erdoğan said on Monday that he told Iranian and Russian leaders during a trilateral summit that Turkey would start implementing its own operation plan if negotiations with the United States did not achieve the desired results.
Hürriyet said that the Erdoğan-Trump meeting had become more critical after Erdoğan’s statements.
Turkey and the United States began joint patrols last week to help establish the safe zone, which Turkey says is essential for eliminating threats to its national security from the Kurdish-held territories in northeast Syria and for the safe return of some of the 3.6 million Syrians living in Turkey.
But the NATO allies have yet to resolve differences about the size of the planned zone and who would control it.
Turkey sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The SDF forms the backbone of U.S.-led coalition forces fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Syria.
Erdoğan and Trump are also expected to discuss the countries’ troubled relations over Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile systems and Washington’s response to it by halting the delivery of 100 F-35 jets Turkey purchased and removing Turkish defence firms from the joint production programme of F-35 stealth fighters.
The extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the leader of a religious movement Turkey accuses of masterminding a coup attempt in 2016, is also among the issues Erdoğan might raise during the meeting, Hürriyet said.