Damascus has lashed out at a US-Turkish deal to establish a safe zone in northern Syria, which the Syrian government said rides roughshod over the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“Syria categorically and blatantly rejects the agreement […] on the establishment of a so-called safe zone,” state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) cited an unnamed Syrian Foreign Ministry source as saying on Thursday.
The source also argued that “Syria's Kurds, who have accepted to become a tool in this aggressive US-Turkish project, bear a historical responsibility in this regard.”
The Syrian Foreign Ministry also slammed the deal as “a gross violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria”, which violates the principles of international law and the UN charter. According to the Ministry, the deal represents "a dangerous escalation and a threat to peace and stability" in the area.
The statement comes after Turkish and US officials clinched a deal on Wednesday to establish a “joint operations centre” aimed at creating a safe zone in northern Syria to grapple with tensions between Turkey and a US-backed Kurdish militia.
“The talks that took place in the Turkish Defence Ministry on 5-7 August with US military representatives regarding the planned safe zone in the north of Syria in coordination with the United States have been completed. During the talks, the sides agreed to take measures as soon as possible to eliminate Turkey’s concerns about its national security,” the Turkish Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, welcomed the agreement, saying that “it was important that a step be taken east of the Euphrates [River] and this is being taken together with the Americans”.
“With the creation of the operations centre, the process will begin”, he pointed out, in an apparent reference to the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria.
Earlier, Erdogan said that he had notified Russia and the US about his plans to launch an operation in Syria in the east of the Euphrates River. He, however, did not reveal any other details about the upcoming operations, including the date of its start.
The territory in the east of the Euphrates is currently controlled by the self-defence forces, which mainly include Kurdish-led militants.
For years, Turkey has launched operations against the Kurds in the south-east of the country as well as in the northern parts of Iraq and Syria. The major crackdown on the Kurdish militias started in Turkey in 2015 and resulted in massive casualties, including the death of civilians.
In 2018, Turkey led Operation Olive Branch to take over the predominantly-Kurdish district of Afrin in northern Syria. In March this year, Ankara announced an operation against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), designated by Ankara as a terrorist organisation, in northern Iraq.