February 23, 2019 / 8:10 PM / 6 months ago

Erdogan says safe zone on Syria border must be under Turkey's control

FILE PHOTO - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured) in the Black sea resort of Sochi, Russia February 14, 2019. Sergei Chirikov/Pool via REUTERS

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Any safe zone along Turkey’s border with Syria must be under Turkish control, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk.

He was speaking after a senior U.S. administration official said on Friday Washington would leave about 400 U.S. troops in Syria, a reversal by President Donald Trump that could pave the way for U.S. allies to keep troops there.

“If there is to be a safe zone along our border then it must be under our control. Because that is my border,” Erdogan said.

Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria in December after saying they had defeated Islamic State, a decision criticized by allies and U.S. lawmakers.

He was persuaded on Thursday that about 200 U.S. troops should join what is expected to be a total commitment of some 800 to 1,500 troops from European allies to set up a safe zone in northeastern Syria, a U.S. administration official said.

Ankara regards the Kurdish YPG militia, which controls that region and has been a key U.S. ally against Islamic State, as a terrorist group. Turkey has repeatedly threatened to intervene militarily against the YPG east of the Euphrates river where the safe zone is planned.

Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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