The Latest: Erdogan hails Turkey-US efforts on Syria zone
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the situation in Syria (all times local):
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hailed a decision by Turkish and U.S. officials to set up a joint operations center as a first step toward the creation of a safe zone in northeast Syria.
The Turkish and American officials ended three days of talks in Ankara to discuss plans for a safe zone on Wednesday, saying they had agreed to set up an operations center in Turkey “as soon as possible.” They gave no details but said Turkey’s security concerns regarding the region would be addressed.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Erdogan told reporters: “it was important that a step be taken east of the Euphrates (river) and this is being taken together with the Americans.”
He added: “With the creation of the operations center, the process will begin.”
The U.N. political chief says reports suggest that more than 100,000 people in Syria have been detained, abducted or gone missing during the eight-year conflict, with the government mainly responsible.
Rosemary DiCarlo urged the warring parties Wednesday to heed the Security Council’s call for the release of all those arbitrarily detained, and to provide information to families about their loved ones as required by international law.
She also reiterated U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
A Syrian doctor whose husband was detained and a Syrian woman whose three brothers died in detention urged the Security Council at Wednesday’s meeting to adopt a resolution to pressure the warring parties to reveal the names and whereabouts of all those detained.
Turkey and the United States appear to be edging closer toward the establishment of a so-called safe zone in northeast Syria.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry says Turkish and U.S. officials have agreed to set up a “Joint Action Center” to coordinate and manage such a zone.
In a statement issued at the end of three days of talks between Turkish and U.S. officials, the ministry said the center would be based in Turkey and would be set up “as soon as possible.”
The ministry did not provide further details but said the sides had agreed that the safe zone would become a “corridor of peace” and that all additional measures would be taken to ensure the refugees’ return to Syria.
Turkey has been pressing to control — in coordination with the U.S. — a 19-25 mile-deep zone within Syria, east of the Euphrates River, and wants no Syrian Kurdish forces there.
Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
Turkey’s defense minister says his country would like to establish a so-called “safe zone” in northeast Syria jointly with the United States but will act alone if necessary.
Hulusi Akar made the comments on Wednesday as Turkish and U.S. military officials continued to hold talks in Ankara over the zone.
He said the talks were progressing in a “positive” manner, adding that the American officials’ views were “moving closer” to Turkey’s.
Ankara wants to control — in coordination with the U.S. — a 19-25 mile-deep zone east of the Euphrates River in Syria, and wants no Syrian Kurdish forces there. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
Turkey has threatened to attack this part of Syria to push back the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish forces.
Syrian state-run media say government forces have captured a northwestern village and are getting closer to the town of Kfar Zeita, which has been held by insurgents since 2012.
The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said on Wednesday that troops captured Arbaeen the night before, following intense clashes with al-Qaida-linked militants.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, confirmed that Arbaeen was taken, adding that “regime forces are at the gates” of Kfar Zeita.
Kfar Zeita is one of the largest towns in the northern parts of Hama province. It lies on the edge of Idlib, the last remaining major rebel stronghold in the country.
On Monday, the Syrian army announced it’s resuming an offensive on the rebel-held northwest, accusing insurgents of violating the latest truce there.