The U.S. and Turkey said Wednesday they have agreed to establish a operations center to oversee a proposed “safe zone” in northern Syria as a buffer between Turkish forces and U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish forces, after several days of sometimes difficult negotiations.
The two countries agreed that the safe zone will become “a peace corridor, and every effort shall be made so that displaced Syrians can return to their country,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Turkey.
The move has been seen as an effort to limit the likelihood of Turkey using military force against the U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG militia — a Kurdish group that Ankara says has close ties to a long-running militant Kurdish separatist movement inside Turkey.
The Reuters news agency reported that the zone would “secure a strip of land stretching more than 250 miles along Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey,” which is largely controlled by the YPG. Some of the last U.S. special forces inside Syria have worked closely with the Kurds to defeat the once-expansive Islamic State “caliphate.”
In a statement Wednesday, the embassy said the joint U.S.-Turkish operations center “as soon as possible” will manage the safe zone. The announcement comes after months of disagreement over the size of the zone and which forces would control it, as the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long demanded that it take command.