U.S. says SDF destroyed military fortifications in northern Syria

The predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) destroyed military fortifications in northern Syria after a phone call between Turkish and U.S. defence ministers, the U.S. Central Command said on Twitter on Friday.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his U.S. counterpart Mike Esper made a phone conversation on Thursday to discuss a planned safe zone to be established in northern Syria, the Turkish ministry said in a written statement. 

“During the conversation, the two Ministers agreed that the first phase of the plan for the establishment of the Safe Zone will be started from this day and that the Military Delegations will meet again in Ankara as soon as possible in order to discuss the next stages of the planning,” it said. 

“Within 24 hours of the phone call between U.S. SECDEF and Turkish MINDEF to discuss security in northeast Syria, the SDF destroyed military fortifications, Aug 22. This demonstrates SDF's commitment to support implementation of the security mechanism framework,” the U.S. Central Command said on Twitter.

The U.S. military also shared photos showing destroyed fortifications but did not mention their exact place.

Ankara sees the SDF and its affiliate Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and says the SDF-controlled enclaves in northeast Syria pose threat to Turkey’s national security.

The YPG forms the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition forces fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Turkey and United States last week started to establish a joint operation centre in Turkey’s southeastern border province of Şanlıurfa for a planned safe zone in northern Syria which Ankara sees essential to eliminate the PKK threat.

But the Turkish and U.S. officials have still been negotiating the details of the planned zone, including its size and who will control it.