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US and Turkey conduct second joint ground patrols in northeast Syria

The U.S. and Turkey launched a second round of joint patrols in northeastern Syria on Tuesday, September 24 as part of plans to create a “safe” buffer zone, the Turkish defense ministry said.

Four Turkish armored vehicles crossed the border to join U.S. forces in Syria, state news agency Anadolu said, for patrols around the town of Tal Abyad.

The ministry said drones were also deployed.

Washington and Ankara reached a deal last month to establish a security zone between the Turkish border and Syrian areas east of the Euphrates river controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

The first joint patrols were conducted on September 8.

As part of the agreement, the U.S.-led Coalition has begun facilitating the withdrawal of YPG fighters – a core part of the SDF – from the border area. The Coalition is currently working with local military councils to take their place.

The U.S. views the YPG as a close ally in the fight against Islamic State, but Turkey considers them inextricably linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has for decades waged an insurgency in Turkey. The PKK is a designated terrorist group in Turkey and the U.S., but the YPG is not proscribed by Washington or its European allies..

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to launch a cross-border offensive against the YPG.

He said at the weekend that plans for a unilateral operation had been completed in case there was not adequate progress in establishing the border zone by the end of September.

The Turkish military, supporting Syrian opposition fighters, has conducted two offensives in northern Syria against ISIS and the YPG in 2016 and 2018.

With reporting from AFP

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