Turkey and the United States have reached “an understanding, but not full agreement,” about work for stabilizing the Syrian town of Manbij and other areas where the People’s Protection Units (YPG) are present, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on March 21.
“We said we have reached an understanding, which is mainly that Syria’s Manbij and the east of the Euphrates are stabilized. We said we have reached an understanding, not an agreement,” Çavuşoğlu said at a news conference in Ankara.
His remarks came after U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Turkey and U.S. have “not reached an agreement yet.”
“It will not be enough for the YPG to retreat from Manbij. There will be other cities after Manbij,” Çavuşoğlu added.
“First, the YPG will leave and the people of Manbij will govern the city. The security of the area will be ensured. We will apply the Manbij model to other areas controlled by the YPG as well,” he said.
Ankara has been seeking an agreement with Washington over who will secure Manbij after the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), withdraws from the area.
Turkey wants the U.S. to put an end to its support for the YPG and to collect back all arms distributed to the organization.
Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a leading role in recent weeks to resolve the dispute, promising to find a solution for Manbij during a visit to Turkey last month. However, his departure from the State Department, to be replaced by outgoing CIA chief Mike Pompeo, has raised questions about the future of the process.
Turkey and the U.S. agreed to build a “working group” mechanism during Tillerson’s last visit to Ankara, in which the two countries’ defense ministries and intelligence agencies would work together to resolve the many issues damaging ties between the two countries.
Çavuşoğlu said he spoke on the phone with Tillerson, who said he will be monitoring the work of the working group mechanism despite leaving office.