Turkey will soon move forward with its long-planned military operation to create what it calls a “safe zone” in northern Syria and U.S. forces will not support or be involved in it, the White House press secretary said on Sunday.
The statement came after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed in a phone call Turkey’s plans to establish a “safe zone” east of the Euphrates River in Syria.
Erdogan said on Saturday a military incursion into northeastern Syria was imminent, after Ankara accused Washington of stalling efforts to establish a “safe zone” there together.
Turkey has long vowed to carry out an operation targeting the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which it considers a terrorist organization tied to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey. The United States helped the YPG defeat Islamic State militants in Syria.
“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” the White House press secretary said in a statement.
“The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial “Caliphate”, will no longer be in the immediate area,” it added.
In the first Turkish comment following the statement, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey’s “safe zone” plan was within the framework of Syria’s territorial integrity.
“The safe zone has two aims: to secure our borders by clearing away terrorist elements and to achieve the return of refugees in a safe way,” Kalin wrote on Twitter.
“Turkey is powerful and determined,” he added.
Turkey says it wants to settle up to 2 million Syrian refugees in the zone. It currently hosts 3.6 million Syrians sheltering from the more than eight-year conflict in their homeland.
After the statements, Turkey's lira TRYTOM=D3 was trading weaker at 5.7150 against the U.S. dollar, compared with a close of 5.70 on Friday.