Middle East

Turkey, US link up to form border 'safe zone'

Armed Turkish military vehicles have crossed into war-stricken Syria to begin joint patrols with US counterparts to establish a high-stakes “safe zone” along a border region controlled by Kurdish forces.

The operation aims to create a buffer zone that will keep US-backed Kurdish militia – the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – away from Turkey’s border.

Vehicles with Turkish flags joined those in Syria with US flags about 15km east of the Turkish border town of Akcakale, near Syria’s Tel Abyad.

The land patrol, which was condemned by Damascus, marks the latest sign of co-operation between the Nato allies east of the Euphrates even while thorny questions remain over the size and oversight of the safe zone. Turkey aims to send some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it hosts to the zone.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is anxious to show progress pushing back YPG forces from its borders. Ankara says the YPG are terrorists with links to Kurdish militants in Turkey.

The patrols would continue in coming days “without any delay for the withdrawal of terrorists and the return of Syrian people,” Turkey’s Defence Ministry said, according to state-owned Anadolu agency.

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