Turkey and the U.S. will oversee the withdrawal of Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants from the town of Manbij in northern Syria and Turkish and U.S. soldiers will provide security for the region, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on March 13.
Speaking to reporters on his flight to Moscow, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey and the U.S. will decide on a plan to secure Manbij during talks on March 19.
A working group studied a draft plan and the foreign ministers of Turkey and the U.S. are scheduled to meet on March 19 in Washington.
The meeting was announced shortly before U.S. President Donald Trump on March 13 announced the departure of his head diplomat Rex Tillerson, who will be succeeded by the current CIA chief Mike Pompeo.
If the YPG does not retreat “a military operation will be carried out not only in Manbij, but also to the east of the Euphrates,” Çavuşoğlu said.
He was elaborating on the outcomes of the working group meeting held last week in Washington between Turkish and U.S. officials.
The YPG group will not have a presence in the local administration of Manbij, and the administration will operate according to the local population, he said, noting that Manbij would serve as an administration model for other towns over which the YPG has assumed control following its advance in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“We will try this model in Manbij first, and later in other places. Eastern Euphrates, Raqqa and other places under the control of YPG are included in this plan,” he said.
“So the area from the east of Euphrates to Deir Ezzor and the regions controlled by the Syrian regime will become a safe haven,” the minister said, adding that after a political settlement in the war-torn country, all these regions would return to Syria, under the control of the national Syrian security forces.
Turkey has not made any demands from the Syrian government regarding Manbij, Çavuşoğlu said, adding that Ankara would “monitor” the return of weapons given to the YPG by the U.S., an issue that has strained ties between the NATO allies.
The U.S. has partnered with the YPG on the ground in Syria in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), prompting Turkey’s criticism over the militant group’s links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).