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Turkey and US agree to 20-mile 'safe zone' between Turkish border and Kurds
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Turkey and US agree to 20-mile 'safe zone' between Turkish border and Kurds

The safe zone currently includes Kurdish settlements

The United States and Turkey have reportedly agreed to the creation of a 20-mile-wide "safe zone" in Syria along the Turkish border.

Here's what we know

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced during a speech to Parliament that his country and the United States had reached an agreement. According to Erdogan, the deal had been struck during a phone call between the two world leaders on Monday.

The full details of how this "safe zone" would work are still unclear. A number of Kurdish settlements, including the cities of Qamishli and Kobani, sit right in its path. Kurdish leaders have not yet said if they would be willing to leave these settlements in return for promises that Turkey would cease its attacks their settlements elsewhere in Syria.

Why is Turkey fighting the Kurds anyway?

Turkey has had trouble with a Kurdish militant group inside its own borders known as the PKK. While the U.S. considers the PKK to be a terrorist group, it differentiates between the PKK and other ethnically Kurdish groups — some of which have proven to be invaluable allies, particularly in the fight against ISIS.

Turkey makes no such distinction. Instead, it has used the instability caused by the now nearly eight-year-long Syrian civil war to launch a series of incursions against Kurdish cities in Syria.

In October, Erdogan promised to "descend on them [the Kurds] with more comprehensive and effective [strength]."

On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would "devastate Turkey economically" if it attacked the Kurds in Syria. On Monday, Turkey's finance minister said that Turkey was "not intimidated by any threats." But since then, the two countries seem to have smoothed things over.

"Some messages given from Mr Trump's social media account have upset me and my friends," Erdogan said during his address on Tuesday, referencing Sunday's tweets. "We immediately acted and we discussed those issues with him on the phone again last night. It was a quite positive conversation."

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