FILE PHOTO: Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar arrives at NATO headquarters ahead of a Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium June 26, 2019. Virginia Mayo/Pool via REUTERS
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A joint Turkish-U.S. operation centre to establish and manage a safe zone in northeast Syria is fully operational, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as saying on Saturday by the state-owned Anadolu news agency.
Turkey and the United States agreed to set up the joint operations centre for the proposed zone along Syria’s northeastern border but gave few details, such as the size of the zone or the command structure of the forces that would operate there.
“The joint operation centre has started working at full capacity. The command of centre is by one U.S. general and one Turkish general,” Akar was quoted as saying.
On Saturday, a U.S. and a Turkish general flew the first joint reconnaissance mission over northeast Syria, Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Robertson said the reconnaissance flight and the joint coordination centre, established earlier this week, “demonstrates commitment to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on their southern border,” and will help ensure “security in northeast Syria so ISIS cannot reemerge.”
Washington and Ankara have been at odds over plans for northeastern Syria, where the Kurdish YPG militia formed the main part of a U.S.-backed force fighting Islamic State. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group.
Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Additional reporting by Joel Schectman and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Helen Popper and Leslie Adler