UPDATES WITH MORE QUOTES FROM TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL AIDE
By Gozde Bayar
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey’s agreement with the U.S. on safe zone in northern Syria is a positive step, a Turkish presidential aide said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara, Ibrahim Kalin said negotiations with the U.S. on the implementation, process and scope of the safe zone are still ongoing.
Kalin stressed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will speak with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the phone over Idlib in the next couple of days.
Erdogan will also have a phone call with the U.S. President Donald Trump over the safe zone at their earliest convenience on Thursday or Friday, he added.
Referring to the establishment of the safe zone, he said joint patrols of the U.S. and Turkish troops will begin soon east of the Euphrates river.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria -- Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch -- to purge the region of terrorist groups Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the terrorist organization PKK.
Following the airstrike on Monday, which targeted Turkish convoy in Idlib, he said the closure or shifting of location of the 9th observation point is "out of question".
He stressed that the forces at all observation points will continue to serve at their current posts.
On Aug. 19, the airstrike had killed three civilians and injured 12 others during a transfer to Turkey’s observation point in Syria’s Idlib.
Kalin reiterated Turkey’s call on Russia and the Syrian regime to end the violations.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.
The zone is currently inhabited by about 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands of people displaced in recent years by regime forces from cities and towns throughout the war-weary country.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.