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Tillerson Discusses in Ankara Choice of Syria “Safe Zones” | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2017. Umit Bektas | Reuters

Ankara- US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has signaled a new US stance on Syria that meets with Turkey’s own positions on some issues but differs on others, mainly concerning the fate of the head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad.

“The status and the longer-term status of Bashar Assad will be decided by the Syrian people,” Tillerson said following talks with Turkish officials in Ankara on Thursday.

Concerning US backing to Kurds in northern Syria, which is another contentious issue between the two states, Tillerson avoided offering a clear answer about his country’s support to the Syrian Democratic Forces.

In a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, he uncovered tackling the creation of safe zones in Syria.

“We had an exchange of views regarding the most – the best way forward to secure areas inside of Syria, create zones of stabilization, to allow the return of people to Syria and to set the stage for a longer-term political solution,” Tillerson said, adding that the exchange of views was very helpful and both sides would continue to work together on the way forward.

The Secretary of State said Turkey was a key partner in the war against ISIS, adding that the US did not allow members of the terrorist organization to return to areas from where they were driven out.

“We look to Turkey as a key partner for stabilization effort in areas once held by ISIS,” he said.

Tillerson added that Washington and Ankara share a common goal for the Middle East, which is “reducing Iran’s ability to disrupt the region.”

For his part, the Turkish Foreign Minister said Ankara expected more coordination with the administration of US President Donald Trump in Syria, adding that Turkey-US relations should be strengthened under the new administration.

Hours before the arrival of Tillerson to Ankara, Turkey announced the end of Euphrates Shield operations that started on August 24, 2016, to support Free Syrian Army factions secure the border region in northern Syria and prevent the establishment of a Kurdish entity on Turkey’s border.

Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Ankara’s announcement came in coordination with the US after extensive talks held in the past few weeks between military and political officials from the two sides.