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Erdogan accuses US of favoring ‘terrorists’ in Syria, says Turkey will set up safe zone on its own

Erdogan accuses US of favoring ‘terrorists’ in Syria, says Turkey will set up safe zone on its own
Joint US/Turkish patrols in northern Syria got off to a rocky start, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing his American allies of siding with “terrorists,” and threatening his own ‘safe zone’ if US talks stall.

"It seems Turkey's ally is after a safe zone in northern Syria not for Turkey but for the terrorist group. We reject such an approach," Erdogan told a crowd of supporters in Malatya on Sunday. 

In August, Turkish and US military officials agreed to create a safe zone in northern Syria and develop a ‘peace corridor’ to facilitate the return of displaced Syrians. The two NATO allies are also planning to establish a joint operations center. However, Washington wants to shelter its Kurdish allies in the zone, while Erdogan wants them removed as Turkey considers them terrorists.

"If de facto formation of a safe zone east of the Euphrates River with Turkish soldiers is not initiated by the end of September, Turkey has no choice but to set out on its own," Erdogan continued.

Turkey has been waging a low-intensity military campaign against Kurdish militias along its Syrian border for four decades, a back-and-forth campaign that has claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 people, mostly Kurds. 

However, the Kurds in Syria are US allies in the fight against Islamic State terrorists, a situation that angers Ankara. On Sunday, Erdogan compared a number of Kurdish militia groups to Islamic State itself, and lambasted the US for supporting them.

"We want to create an area cleared of Daesh (Islamic State) along with the PKK and its extensions PYD-YPG-SDG,” he said. “Only in this way we can ensure that our Syrian brothers and sisters living in our country, in Europe or elsewhere can return to their homes and live in peace and security."

Also on rt.com Turkish & US troops begin joint patrols of Syria ‘safe zone’ - reports

As Erdogan delivered his speech, American and Turkish troops embarked on the first joint patrols through the proposed site of the safe zone. Backed by reconnaissance drones and helicopters, the troops set out from near the Turkish border town of Akcakale on Sunday morning.

If the tone of Erdogan’s statements are anything to go on, the future of such patrols is already off to a rocky start. Strategic differences aside, the Turkish leader also called  the current patrols inadequate to fulfill either side’s objectives.

It is "insufficient" to form a safe zone in northern Syria with "3-5 helicopter flights, 5-10 vehicle patrols and a few hundred soldiers in the area,” he told the crowd in Malatya.

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