Turkish Foreign Minister: “The aim of this roadmap is the clearing of Manbij of all terror organizations”
Turkey says the US has accepted a plan for the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the city of Manbij in northern Syria, but Washington has confirmed no details of any arrangement.
Turkish Foreign Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the proposal in Washington on Monday, with the two sides agreeing a joint work force to oversee the affairs of the city in eastern Aleppo Province.
The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces captured Manbij from the Islamic State in August 2016, over the objections of Turkey, which wanted the SDF to remain east of the Euphrates River.
Manbij has been the focus of Turkey’s attention since a Turkish-rebel offensive removed Kurdish forces from almost all of the Afrin canton in northwest Syria in March. The city is at the western limit of control by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) and its YPG militia, including of much of the Kobani and Cezire cantons and the city of Raqqa, in the north and northeast of Syria.
Turkey considers the PYD and the YPG to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has fought Ankara’s security forces for more than three decades.
Çavuşoğlu told a press conference, “The aim of this roadmap is the clearing of Manbij of all terror organizations and the permanent instatement of safety and stability. 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.”
However, a joint statement by the two sides was not as definitive over the SDF, the YPG, and Manbij, giving no details over the plan and its timetable.
Turkey has sought a timeline of 30 days for the YPG’s withdrawal and 60 days for the establishment of military and municipal councils overseen by Ankara and Washington.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the proposal “includes steps to ensure the security and stability”: “They [Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo] endorsed a roadmap to this end and underlined their mutual commitment to its implementation, reflecting their agreement to closely follow developments on the ground.”
Çavuşoğlu pressed farther, saying the plan is only the start of measures to restrict the Kurdish zone of control: “In the long term, this road map that will implemented in Manbij will be carried to other regions to implement security and stability in other regions in Syria. Meaning the cooperation will continue in other regions.”