US officials to meet with Turkey amid tensions over Syria: report

US officials to meet with Turkey amid tensions over Syria: report

A Department of Defense delegation is planning to meet in Ankara on Monday in an effort to calm tensions amid a threatened military offensive by Turkey in Kurdish-held territory in Syria, The Washington Post reported Sunday. 

Turkey has gathered tens of thousands of troops near the border with Syria and officials fear an operation could be launched in weeks against American-backed Kurdish fighters.

Last month Turkey threatened military action if a deal with the U.S. over the fighters is not reached.

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“If the safe zone is not created, the threat emanating from this area continues and terrorists are not cleared, then we would start the operation,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in an interview with Turkey’s TGRT television.

Conflict between the U.S. and Turkey over Kurdish fighters has been brewing for years.

America is allied with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which the U.S. sees as a vital collaborator to defeat ISIS in Syria.

For Turkey, the militant group is a top enemy because it is linked to the PKK, a Kurdish separatist movement that Turkish forces have been fighting against for over three decades.

Victories against ISIS have left some territory in Northern Syria, near Turkey, under the control of Kurds.

The U.S.'s proposal to resolve the situation includes a safe zone south of the Syria-Turkey border that would be about nine miles deep and 87 miles long and from which the Kurdish fighters would be withdrawn, according to the Post.

The U.S. and Turkish militaries would reportedly destroy Kurdish fortifications and then jointly patrol the area.

Turkey has already rejected those parameters, insisting on a 20-mile deep safe zone and expressing a preference to control it alone, according to the Post.

If negotiations fail, the administration has made clear that it cannot, under existing congressional authorities, intervene to protect the Kurdish fighters.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Monday's reported summit.