ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed the planned “safe zone” east of the Euphrates River in Syria in a phone call on Sunday, the Turkish presidency said, adding the two men agreed to meet in Washington next month.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
The call came a day after Erdogan said a military incursion into northeastern Syria was imminent, after Ankara accused Washington of stalling efforts to establish a “safe zone” there together.
During the phone call, Erdogan expressed his frustration with the failure of U.S. military and security officials to implement the agreement between the two countries, the presidency said.
Erdogan also reiterated the necessity of the safe zone to eliminate the threats from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization, and to create the conditions necessary for the return of Syrian refugees, it said.
The agreement to meet in Washington next month was taken on Trump’s invitation, the presidency said.
The White House declined comment.
The NATO allies agreed in August to establish a zone in northeast Syria along the border with Turkey. Ankara says the zone should be cleared of the YPG.
Turkey says it wants to settle up to 2 million Syrian refugees in the zone. It currently hosts 3.6 million Syrians sheltering from Syria’s more than eight-year conflict.
Turkey says the United States, which supports the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a YPG-led force that defeated Islamic State fighters in Syria, is moving too slowly to set up the zone. It has repeatedly warned of launching an offensive on its own into northeast Syria, where U.S. forces are stationed alongside the SDF.
The two countries are also at odds over how far the zone should extend into Syria and who should control it. Turkey says it should be 30 km (19 miles) deep.
The ties between the allies have also been pressured over Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 defense missiles and the trial of local U.S. consulate employees in Turkey.
Reporting by Can Sezer; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Alison Williams and Peter Cooney