Jun 03 2018

Manbij roadmap to be announced after U.S. meeting, says Turkish FM

The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Saturday said that the roadmap on Syria's Manbij, which has become an ongoing source of tension between Turkey and the United States, would be announced following talks with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo on June 4 in Washington, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Çavuşoğlu heads to the United States on Monday, to discuss the withdrawal of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated YPG group from Manbij, in addition to regional stability, the agency said. The PKK is an armed group that has been fighting the Turkish Armed Forces for over three decades.

Turkey’s ongoing military operation into Syria, ‘’Olive Branch,’’ was launched on Jan. 20, with the goal of removing YPG militants from the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Syria. While Turkish forces seized control of the predominantly Kurdish city on March 18, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly stressed that the operation would expand to the east to include cities such as Manbij - where there is U.S. military presence alongside the YPG - unless YPG leaves the city.

"Who will govern here [Manbij] until a political solution is reached in the country? Who will be responsible for security? Joint action and joint decision with the U.S. on these issues is the basic framework of the main roadmap," the agency quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying.

The Turkish Foreign Minister stressed that if the Manbij plan is implemented successfully, other YPG-held Syrian towns would follow.

The YPG and PKK are expected to leave Manbij in accordance with a date to be determined in Washington should Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo reach an agreement on Monday, the agency said.

The U.S. and Turkish military and intelligence authorities will start a joint inspection of Manbij in the second phase of the plan, roughly 45 days later, which will be followed by a local administration in Manbij within 60 days after June 4.

The YPG, which Turkey labels a terrorist organization, forms the main part of a U.S.-backed rebel alliance in the region.