TURKEY, U.S. AGREE TO ROADMAP TO AVERT CRISIS IN SYRIA’S MANBIJ
Turkey and the United States on Monday endorsed a roadmap for the northern Syrian city of Manbij and underlined their mutual commitment to its implementation following a meeting of their foreign ministers in Washington, according to a joint statement. The move, long sought by Turkey, comes at a time of strain in bilateral ties over wider Syria policy and over Washington’s decision in December to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Turkey has been infuriated by U.S. support for the Kurdish YPG in Syria, which it views as a terrorist organization, and has threatened to push its offensive in the Afrin region of northern Syria further east to Manbij, risking confrontation with U.S. troops stationed there. Washington views the YPG as a key ally in the fight against Islamic State.
At their talks in Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also discussed cooperation in Syria, along with potential steps to improve security in Manbij, they said in a joint statement. “They endorsed a road map to this end,” the statement said.
The Pentagon has long feared that Manbij could become a flashpoint in Syria, with U.S.-backed forces who cleared the city of Islamic State fighters clashing with Turkish forces. That would put Washington in the unenviable position of either fighting a NATO ally or abandoning its proxy forces in Syria.
The statement did not explicitly spell out how Turkey and the United States would resolve the Manbij issue or detail next steps in the so-called roadmap. “The aim of this roadmap is the clearing of Manbij of all terror organizations and the permanent establishment of safety and stability,” Cavusoglu told a press conference in Washington.
“In the first step, the determination of parameters for common plans for the removal of YPG-PYD from Manbij - you can also call it PKK - will be determined.” The reference to the PKK was a jab at Washington. Ankara considers the YPG to be an arm of the PKK, which both the United States and Turkey consider a terrorist group.
Cavusoglu said Turkish and U.S. units would together implement security and stability in Manbij, and the removal of all YPG organizations from Manbij would be completed. “In the long term, this road map will be carried to other regions to implement security and stability in other regions in Syria. Meaning the cooperation will continue in other regions,” he added.