By Sarp Ozer
ISTANBUL (AA) - If there is stalling or a delay in the process to set up a safe zone in northern Syria, Turkey is ready to single-handedly take the reins, Turkey’s defense minister said on Wednesday.
“We made our preparations. When necessary, we can take matters into our own hands,” Hulusi Akar said at an opening ceremony for the fall term of Istanbul's National Defense University.
“We find it necessary to establish a safe zone, a peace corridor, free of heavy weapons and terrorists along the border some 30-40 kilometers deep into Syria, east of the Euphrates River,” said Akar.
“In the region, we started to perform air and land patrols with the U.S. and are working to establish base areas,” he added.
Akar also said that these patrols will continue as long as they are in line with Turkey’s goals and objectives.
“As our president has stated, we will never allow the creation of a terrorist corridor in northern Syria, everybody should know that,” he added.
“Our ultimate goal is to end the [terrorist] PKK/PYD/YPG presence in northern Syria, to establish a peace corridor and to ensure that our Syrian brothers and sisters in our country return home.”
Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed on Aug. 7 to set up a safe zone in northern Syria and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians who want to return to their homeland.
Turkish leaders have said the U.S. is not doing enough to establish the zone, which could house some 2-3 million Syrians who fled the Syrian civil war since 2011.
Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The terrorist YPG is the PKK's Syrian branch.
* Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak