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Rudaw

Syria

Deal with US will see YPG out of Manbij in six months: Turkish FM

By Rudaw 5/6/2018
The image of YPG hero Abu Leyla who died in the war against ISIS in Manbij looks out over the city. Photo: Rudaw
The image of YPG hero Abu Leyla who died in the war against ISIS in Manbij looks out over the city. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey is plowing ahead with the Manbij road map, saying there is a set timetable and agreements that will see the Kurdish YPG forces disarmed, but US officials are less committed to confirming the final agreement. 

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was in Washington on Monday to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as their two nations try to repair a fractured relationship. 

The northern Syrian city of Manbij – currently the administrative and security control of local councils backed by Kurdish groups – has been a major flashpoint between Turkey and the US. The US is fighting side-by-side with its Kurdish allies in the war against ISIS in northern Syria, but Turkey considers those same Kurds as terrorists. 

After their meeting, Cavusoglu and Pompeo issued a joint statement stating they had “endorsed a Road Map” to ensure stability and security in Manbij, but gave scant information of the plan. 

Speaking to media afterwards, Cavusoglu revealed more details. 

He outlined three stages. First Kurdish forces will depart from the city. Turkey considers the armed YPG a branch of the banned PKK. 

The second stage will see the removal of Kurds affiliated with the YPG from government positions in Manbij. 

The final stage is the establishment of joint US-Turkish security patrols and a new administration based on the local population. 

Cavusoglu explained that the exact timeline depends on steps taken on the ground, but the road map will be carried out within six months, Anadolu Agency reported. 

“It needs to be less than six months,” he said.

Cavusoglu also claimed that the Manbij deal will see the YPG disarmed.

“The weapons that were given to the YPG by the US will be taken back," he told journalists in a press conference on Tuesday, Hurriyet Daily News reported. 

US officials have been less reticent to give details. 

Two officials who spoke to the New York Times anonymously confirmed the road map called for the eventual withdrawal of the YPG, but they would not confirm a plan for a joint US-Turkey oversight in Manbij and said there was no timeline set. 

Other officials who spoke to the newspaper said they had been surprised by the announcement, as vague as it was. 

A former US ambassador to Turkey, Jim Jeffrey, said the agreement will see Kurds of the YPG-linked political party PYD leaving Manbij within 90 days, but it was not known whether locals sympathetic to the PYD will be allowed to stay. 

“The problem is, we don’t know where the PYD [stands],” Jeffrey told Al Monitor. “The local US command really like them.”

Officials in Manbij say they have received messages of support from their American allies.

This is not the first time Ankara and Washington have given different interpretations of their meetings. In March, Turkish officials announced that a deal had been reached on Manbij, but the US quickly countered with a denial.

Cavusoglu stressed that Turkey and the US need to build a relationship based on honesty and urged the US to not veer off course. 

Relations between the NATO allies have been strained over American support for the Kurds. Coordination over Manbij was supposed to be a major step forward in mending ties, but other factors are also throwing up potential roadblocks. 

Turkey is still expecting delivery of state-of-the-art US F-35 jets on June 21 and Cavusoglu condemned “threatening language” out of the US on the jets as “non-constructive.”

There have been attempts in the US Senate and Congress to block the delivery because of concerns over Ankara’s human rights record. 

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