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Cavusoglu: US-Turkish Task Force to Coordinate Withdrawal from Syria

Cavusoglu: US-Turkish Task Force to Coordinate Withdrawal from Syria

Friday, 8 February, 2019 - 09:00
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a news conference after an extraordinary meeting of the OIC Executive Committee in Istanbul, Turkey, August 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Ankara - Saeed Abdelrazek
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced the formation of a joint US-Turkish task force to coordinate the US pullout from Syria.

“I suggested to my US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, the idea of establishing a joint task force to coordinate the US withdrawal from Syria, and he agreed to my proposal,” said the minister.

“This force will only be concerned with the withdrawal issue," he stressed.

In remarks on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers in Washington as part of the global coalition to defeat ISIS, Cavusoglu considered the US pullout from Iraq without coordination or planning as the source of problems in the Middle East.

He said such a withdrawal was a "real mistake."

"When Washington withdrew from Iraq, the country was handed over to former Premier Nouri al-Maliki, who had marginalized a large segment of the Iraqi society, leading to chaos,” he explained, adding that ISIS elements benefited from the situation and managed, within a short period of time, to gain control over 40 percent of Iraqi territory.

"During the US withdrawal (from Syria) there should not be a vacuum that could be filled by terrorists or pro-regime elements," Cavusoglu stressed.

"Avoidance of power vacuums that could be exploited by terrorists to undermine Syria’s territorial integrity and neighbors’ national security will be essential," he said.

The Turkish minister said he met during his stay in Washington with Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations James Risch and a number of other members to discuss the latest developments in northern Syria.

He also stressed his country’s rejection of forming a safe zone in Syria that would provide protection for “terrorists.”

“It is important what we understand about a safe zone. That is, if a buffer zone that will safeguard terrorists is envisaged or desired, we are against that," said Cavusoglu, referring to US demands to ensure protection of Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) who are allied with Washington in the war against ISIS.

He noted that Turkey will support the formation of a safe zone that will contribute to ending Turkish security concerns, stressing that the idea was first suggested by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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