Turkey insists on ‘joint action’ with US in Syria, says Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu

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Ankara wants to maintain the agreement it had previously reached with the United States administration after the new U.S. Secretary of State is appointed, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on March 22.

The foreign minister said Ankara and Washington “should not let relations between them cool” for the discussion of a mechanism to stabilize the Syrian town of Manbij. Therefore, officials from the two countries will meet in the upcoming days, Çavuşoğlu told Anadolu Agency.

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan and Turkish Foreign Ministry undersecretary Ümit Yalçın will meet when their schedule permits, he said.

Their work will continue until a new secretary is appointed, “so we can pass to the stage of implementation as soon as possible,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“The YPG [Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units] will withdraw from here [Manbij] and their withdrawal will be monitored. Then, the question of who will maintain the security of this region will be addressed. As soon as the YPG leaves, Turkey and the U.S. will take joint action there. We will also take measures regarding security together,” said the foreign minister.

Çavuşoğlu said the second phase of the roadmap includes the administration and security of the area in Manbij, adding that both of these aspects would be determined by demographics once the YPG/outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) retreats from the area. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization due to its link to the PKK.

“Demographics are going to be the key criteria in Manbij,” the minister said, elaborating on a working group established after the outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Ankara last month. During the meeting, the two countries’ defense ministries and intelligence agencies had worked together to resolve issues ranging from Syria to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

Ankara is seeking an agreement with Washington over who will secure Manbij after the YPG withdraws from the area.

Turkey wants the U.S. to put an end to its support to the YPG and collect the arms it has distributed to the organization.

“Once the roadmap on Manbij is successfully implemented, [we] will then move on to cities located east of the Euphrates where the same model will be implemented,” said Çavuşoğlu, citing the outcomes of a meeting for a working group.

If the Manbij model is implemented successfully, then an operation will not be necessary in the town of Sinjar in Iraq, where PKK affiliated groups have advanced during a fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), said the minister.

However, if the plan in Manbij remains unimplemented, then Turkey will also intervene in Iraq, he said.

“If this plan is not realized, the only option left will be to clear [the area of] terrorists. This is not just valid for Syria, but also for Iraq,” said Çavuşoğlu.

The foreign minister also said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump would speak over the phone late on March 22.

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