“The Syrian Arab Republic condemns in the strongest terms the US administration and the Turkish regime for conducting joint patrols in the Syrian al-Jazirah region, which is in flagrant violation of the international law as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” an unnamed official source at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates told Syria’s official news agency SANA on Sunday.
“Syria stresses that this step represents (an act of) aggression in every sense of the word, and is meant to complicate and prolong the Syrian crisis in the wake of the Syrian Arab Army’s achievements in pursuit of remnants of terrorist groups.”
The source said the Syrian Arab Republic, while reiterating its rejection of the so-called safe area, dismisses all projects aimed at undermining the unity and territorial integrity of the country.
Earlier in the day, Turkey's Defense Ministry announced the start of the joint patrols in a post published on its official Twitter page, and said the patrols are being supported by unmanned aerial vehicles.
Six Turkish-flagged armored vehicles joined the US military convoy 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away from Akcakale district of the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, as part of the first phase of the safe zone plan, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported.
The report added that the joint forces will proceed to the south from Syria’s town of Tal Abyad, and the patrols are expected to continue till noon hours.
Late on August 21, Turkey and the United States reached an agreement to immediately launch the first phase of the so-called safe zone plan in northern Syria, irrespective of the Damascus government’s strong opposition that the scheme amounts to “blatant aggression” against Syria’s territorial integrity.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper discussed the plan during a telephone conversation, and decided to implement the measure from the following day. The two defense chiefs also agreed that military delegations from the two countries will meet in Ankara soon to discuss the next stages of the plan.
On August 7, Turkey and the US reached an agreement on the establishment of a joint operation center in the northern part of Syria, in the wake of Ankara’s threats to launch an operation against Kurdish militants from the People's Protection Units (YPG) to push them away from the Turkish border.
Turkey views the YPG as the Syria branch of the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
Turkey expects the creation of a 32-kilometer (20-mile) safe zone in northern Syria, and has stressed that it wants the YPG cleared from the region.