Turkey and the United States agreed on a plan on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters considered “terrorists” by Ankara from the northern Syrian city of Manbij.
The agreement was reached during a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, DC, on Monday.
The two sides agreed on a joint work to end a bilateral dispute over the presence of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) troops in Manbij.
Ankara considers YPG a “terrorist” group, while Washington views it as a key ally in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
Turkey believes the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wing YPG have ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands of people.
“I am pleased that we have achieved considerable progress on the YPG/PKK and we expect concrete results for our meeting with Secretary Pompeo this morning,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by Anadolu news agency.
A joint statement by the top diplomats said the agreements “includes steps to ensure the security and stability” there.
“They endorsed a roadmap to this end and underlined their mutual commitment to its implementation, reflecting their agreement to closely follow developments on the ground,” it said.
The statement did not unveil details regarding the plan or its timetable.
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.
Tensions over YPG
Turkey has been infuriated by US support for the Kurdish fighters in Syria and has threatened to push its offensive in the Afrin region of northern Syria further east to Manbij, risking a confrontation with US troops stationed there.
State-run Anadolu said last week Turkey and the US had reached a technical agreement on a three-step YPG withdrawal plan in Manbij. The US department of state later denied those reports.
Manbij is a potential flashpoint. The Syrian government, Kurdish fighters, Syrian rebel groups, Turkey and the US all have a military presence in northern Syria.
Relations between Ankara and Washington have deteriorated due to a range of factors, including the sentencing in New York in May of a former Turkish state bank executive to 32 months in prison for taking part in an Iran sanctions-busting scheme, a case Turkey has called a political attack.
Turkey has also caused unease in Washington with its decision to buy S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia and drew criticism over its detention of a US Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, on “terrorism” charges. He has denied the charges.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies