Turkey, US to launch 1st phase of Syria safe-zone plan


Ankara, Aug 22 (IANS) Turkey and the US have agreed to immediately launch the first phase of the safe zone plan in Syria after months of dispute over the depth of the zone and who would control it, the media reported.

The development follows a phone conversation late Wednesday between Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his US counterpart Mark Esper, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Akar and Esper also agreed that military delegations from the two countries will meet in Ankara "soon" to discuss next stages of Syria safe zone plan, according to a Turkish Defence Ministry statement.

The first phase is expected to be launched later this week and will see joint patrols of Turkish and US soldiers, said the report.

But negotiations on the scope and implementation are still ongoing, with the main sticking point being the size of the zone.

In a joint statement released on August 7, the NATO allies said the safe zone would become a "peace corridor", without providing further details. At the time, the Syrian government called the agreement a "blatant attack" on the country's sovereignty.

The safe zone would also facilitate the return of displaced Syrians currently living in Turkey to their home country.

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