(MEE) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US counterpart Donald Trump agreed during a phone call to meet in Washington next month to discuss creating a “safe zone” in northern Syria, the Turkish presidency said on Sunday.
Erdogan told Trump of his “frustration over the US military and security bureaucracy’s failure to implement the deal” agreed in August to establish a buffer zone along the Turkish border, the presidency said in a statement. It added that the visit would take place after an invitation was extended by Trump.
There had been expectations in Turkey of a Trump-Erdogan meeting on Syria last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, but it did not take place.
The Turkish leader had increased tensions on Saturday by warning that Ankara could launch a cross-border offensive “as soon as today, tomorrow”, ratcheting up pressure on the United States. Turkish state media also reported on military reinforcements being sent to the border with Syria after Erdogan’s comments.
Still, thousands of people demonstrated on Sunday in a predominantly Kurdish area on the Syrian border with Turkey against Ergdogan’s threat of a military offensive.
Kurdish authorities had on Saturday decried Erdogan’s comments, calling on the international community to “put pressure on Turkey to stop it from carrying out any aggression”.
Washington has sought to stop any Turkish operation against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia viewed by Ankara as a “terrorist” offshoot of Kurdish militants in Turkey.
The US has worked closely with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia against the Islamic State (IS) group, capturing swathes of territory in Syria. Ankara says the “safe zone” should be cleared of the YPG.
Turkey says it wants to settle as many as 2 million Syrian refugees in the zone, Reuters reported. It currently hosts 3.6 million Syrians from Syria’s more than eight-year conflict amid a growing public backlash against their presence in Turkey.
Still, Turkey accused the US of stalling over the establishment of the “safe zone”.
The two leaders discussed it on Sunday’s call, in which Erdogan told Trump that the establishment of the zone would help create the “necessary conditions” for Syrian refugees to return to Syria.
With some western capitals concerned over any unilateral Turkish operation’s impact on the fight against IS, Erdogan insisted that Turkey,would take the “necessary precautions” to ensure there was no resurgence in the region.
The two countries are also at odds over how far the zone should extend into Syria and who should control it. Turkey says it should extend 30km (19 miles) deep into Syria.
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