Turkey, U.S. agree on roadmap for Syria’s Manbij

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday agreed to a roadmap over the withdrawal of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Syrian province of Manbij following months of negotiations, Russian Sputnik news reported.

Turkey has been calling for the U.S. to allow the YPG - which Ankara considers a terrorist organization - to remove its troops from the region where Turkey is heading a military operation that began on Jan. 20. The YPG forms the backbone of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition in their fight against ISIS in the region.

The announcement came from the Turkish foreign ministry following the meeting between the two foreign ministers in Washington.

“They considered the recommendations of the Turkey-U.S. Working Group on Syria pertaining to the future of our bilateral cooperation in Syria on issues of mutual interest, to include taking steps to ensure the security and stability in Manbij. They endorsed a Road Map to this end and underlined their mutual commitment to its implementation, reflecting their agreement to closely follow developments on the ground,” the joint statement released after the meeting said.

While the details of the road map were not revealed, it includes a certain timeline that suggests the withdrawal of the YPG within 30 days after the beginning of its implementation.

Manbij fell to Islamic State early in 2014 and became a hub for the group's foreign fighters until the SDF, an alliance mostly made up of YPG fighters, ousted the extreme jihadists from the city on August 2016 with the help of U.S.-led coalition air strikes.