Turkey's Erdogan says planned 20-mile safe zone in Syria may be extended
Updated 19:38, 17-Jan-2019
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he had discussed a safe zone which Turkey would set up inside Syria along the length of their border, during a phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump which he described as positive.
Trump, who announced he was pulling U.S. troops out of northeast Syria last month, suggested in a tweet on Sunday creating safe zone, without elaborating.
"The safe zone issue, including a safe zone along Turkey's borders that will be formed by us - an issue that I have brought up since the Obama era - was reiterated by him as 20 miles," Erdogan told members of his AK Party in parliament.
He later told reporters that the zone could be extended beyond 20 miles, but did not say by how far.
Turkey has promised to take over the fight against ISIL in Syria following the U.S. withdrawal. 
However, bitter differences between Washington and Ankara over the Kurdish YPG militia had soured talks between the two NATO partners.
The YPG has been a main U.S. ally in the fight against ISIL, but Turkey views it as a terrorist organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.
Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) fire rifles at a drone operated by Islamic State militants in Raqqa, Syria, June 16, 2017. /VCG Photo

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) fire rifles at a drone operated by Islamic State militants in Raqqa, Syria, June 16, 2017. /VCG Photo

Monday's call between the two leaders came after Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if Turkish forces attacked the YPG militia.
Erdogan said he was saddened by Trump's tweet but that the phone call later in the day was positive.
Erdogan said he and Trump had agreed to improve economic ties during their phone call.
"Turkey will continue to do what it has to in order to solve this issue in line with the spirit of its alliance, so long as our rights and laws are respected," he said. "We reached a historic understanding with Trump last night."
On other forces involved in Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday urged Iran to quickly remove its forces from Syria or face continued attacks on them by Israel. "Yesterday I heard the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman saying 'Iran has no military presence in Syria, we only advise them'," Netanyahu said at a Tel Aviv ceremony to install a new head of Israel's armed forces. 
"So let me advise them -- get out of there fast, because we'll continue our forceful policy of attacking, as we promised and are doing, fearlessly and relentlessly," he said. 
In a rare public confirmation on Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel had attacked what he described as "Iranian warehouses containing Iranian weapons in the Damascus international airport" over the weekend. 
Netanyahu added that Israel had attacked Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria hundreds of times. 
(Top image: Turkish Armed Forces' armoured personnel carriers and commando units are being dispatched to support the units at Turkey's Syrian border, in Hatay, Turkey, January 14, 2019. /VCG Photo)
Source(s): AFP ,Reuters