The Latest on the situation in Syria (all times local):
Turkey’s defense minister says his country would like to establish a so-called “safe zone” in northeast Syria jointly with the United States but will act alone if necessary.
Hulusi Akar made the comments on Wednesday as Turkish and U.S. military officials continued to hold talks in Ankara over the zone.
He said the talks were progressing in a “positive” manner, adding that the American officials’ views were “moving closer” to Turkey’s.
Ankara wants to control — in coordination with the U.S. — a 19-25 mile-deep zone east of the Euphrates River in Syria, and wants no Syrian Kurdish forces there. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
Turkey has threatened to attack this part of Syria to push back the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish forces.
Syrian state-run media say government forces have captured a northwestern village and are getting closer to the town of Kfar Zeita, which has been held by insurgents since 2012.
The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said on Wednesday that troops captured Arbaeen the night before, following intense clashes with al-Qaida-linked militants.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, confirmed that Arbaeen was taken, adding that “regime forces are at the gates” of Kfar Zeita.
Kfar Zeita is one of the largest towns in the northern parts of Hama province. It lies on the edge of Idlib, the last remaining major rebel stronghold in the country.
On Monday, the Syrian army announced it’s resuming an offensive on the rebel-held northwest, accusing insurgents of violating the latest truce there.