“…We welcome the joint statement by the United States and Turkey yesterday on establishing a safe zone in northeast Syria. The military-to-military talks in Ankara made progress towards establishing a sustainable security mechanism that addresses the legitimate concerns of our NATO ally Turkey and the United States. While there are additional details that need to be worked out, we are encouraged by the initial steps that came out of these talks.
A U.S.-Turkey joint operation center will be established in Turkey to continue planning and implementation. We look forward to continuing our work with our partners on this important matter to achieve peace and security in northeast Syria. …”
QUESTION: Hi. On the agreement with Turkey that you mentioned at the top.
MS ORTAGUS: Yes, ma’am.
QUESTION: An embassy statement said there will be a peace corridor and displaced Syrians will go there. You didn’t mention that and neither did the Pentagon in its statement.
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah.
QUESTION: So the question: Will displaced Syrians be brought into the area, and if so, will you ensure that there’s no major demographic shift and no creation of a demographic corridor that separates the Kurds in Syria from the Kurds in Turkey?
MS ORTAGUS: So the – so, yeah, the first part, I checked with the – or I had a member of my team, I should say, check with the Pentagon because I know that they gave you an answer to one of your questions. And I believe that the DOD maybe just left off a sentence and didn’t give you the full response. So, I mean, I think that we have the full statement that’s posted on the Embassy Ankara website. I believe the DOD also has it posted as well, and we can certainly – our team can make sure that you have a copy of the full statement.
And what else was it that you needed from me? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: That – will there be the movement of Syrian refugees in Turkey into that area, and will you ensure that doesn’t result in a big demographic shift?
MS ORTAGUS: So it’s the U.S. position that we do not support any sort of forced or coerced relocations of refugees or IDPs. If and when conditions allow any refugee who wants to return to their destination, it must be of their own choosing and must be voluntary, safe, and dignified.
QUESTION: Will these be Syrians who lived in that area or any Syrian can go there? Because 3.6 million Syrians, if —
MS ORTAGUS: Absolutely.
QUESTION: — would change the demography of that area.
MS ORTAGUS: It certainly would, and I think that any sort of discussions in fine detail on the safe zone are still ongoing. I think that we were certainly encouraged that the U.S. and Turkey issued a joint statement on something that the United States Government has been working very diligently with our NATO ally Turkey on, and I don’t think I have any details beyond that.
MS ORTAGUS: No.