President Erdogan stated Turkey is ready to create a 32 km (20-mile) deep safe zone alongside its border with Kurdish-held Syria, running along the border from Afrin to the western bank of the River Euphrates.
The announcement follows President Trump's threat that the US will "devastate Turkey economically” if they attacked the Kurdish separatist militia known as the People’s Protection Unit (YPG).
The YPG has been a crucial ally for the US in their war in Syria. The US has announced its strategic withdrawal from the region which threatens to leave the YPG defenceless against Turkey.
Last year, Turkey allied with Syrian rebel groups to launch an offensive strike against the YPG driving them away from the border.
Some senior Kurdish leaders rejected the proposed safe zones, insisting on a deployment of UN forces between the Kurdish fighters and the Turkish army. However, officals in the SDF, a coalition of armed groups supported by the US and led by the YPG, have agreed to safe zones so long as they have “international guarantees…that would prevent foreign intervention" in reference to Turkey.
The US and Turkey have been in conversation over the proposed safe zones. Following these discussions Trump asserted that they had clarified the US position and tweeted that they “spoke about economic development between the US & Turkey - great potential to substantially expand!".
President Erdogan said he had reached an understanding with President Trump but dismissed any plans to work with the YPG.
“They are terrorists. Can we leave the safe zone to terrorists?” Erdogan said.
Turkey says the YPG are an offshoot of the PKK (Kurdish Worker Party) which was known to have committed attacks. The YPG has denied these allegations.
The Democratic Union Party (PYD) is the political wing of the militant YPG has been holding talks with the Syrian government and Russia with the hopes of securing protection and autonomy for Kurdish regions. They claim to preparing to confront “Turkish threats through resistance”. Turkey has threatened to attack the YPG in the Syrian city of Manbij.
Senior political leader of Rojava, Aldar Khalil, has asserted that the proposed safe zone is “unacceptable as they infringe on the sovereignty of Syria and the sovereignty of our autonomous region”.
“Sadly, Trump wants to implement these safe regions through cooperation with Turkey. But any role for Turkey will upset the balance and the region will not be safe […] Turkey is a party (to the dispute) and any party cannot guarantee security," Khalil added.