U.S., Turkey negotiate plan for safe zone in Syria

The United States and Turkey are holding talks on a proposal for a safe zone 20 miles wide along Syria’s border with Turkey, the Washington Post reported, citing officials from both nations.

The arrangement would require Syria’s Kurds, who have been key allies of the United States in combating Islamic State (ISIS), to step back from the border region, the newspaper said.

The plan would also mean U.S. troops in the country would be required to patrol the area just as their number are due to be cut by more than half to about 1,000 soldiers. The United Kingdom and France have declined to contribute to the zone, which would in effect be a buffer between Turkey and the Kurds, who Ankara considers terrorists, the Washington Post said.

“There are still differences of significance, but will on both sides to find solutions,” said one senior U.S. government official, who asked to remain anonymous because the talks were ongoing. The United States would like a narrower strip of land than the 20 miles the Turks have proposed, the official said.

The negotiations come at a time of increased political tensions between the United States and Turkey over Turkish plans to purchase S-400 air defence missiles from Russia. A series of visits in recent days by high level Turkish officials to Washington has failed to resolve the impasse, the newspaper reported.

As well as ongoing discussions over the width of the zone, leaders of the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG) said last week that they had not been informed of U.S. withdrawal plans, the Washington Post said.