U.S. says no agreement with Turkey on Syria’s Manbij

The United States has not agreed with Turkey to oust Kurdish fighters from Syria’s Manbij, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said, contradicting a statement from the Turkish government.

“It is not our understanding,” Nauert told reporters in Washington on Thursday in response to a reporter’s question about the deal. “We have a lot of conversations that we’re having with the Turkish government at this point… We’re still working to reach an agreement and we’re not done talking with them.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday that an agreement with Washington had been reached, and that U.S. and Turkish officials were working on a timetable to implement the plans.

The United States stations hundreds of troops in Manbij, where thousands of fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are also based. Turkey wants Washington to ensure the militants, which it labels as terrorists, return to positions east of the Euphrates river and has threatened to confront them in Manbij if the United States fails to implement its demands.

Turkey has also launched an operation against fighters in the enclave of Afrin and is closing in on Afrin city despite objections from the United States and European Union.

Talks between the two NATO allies to resolve differences over their strategies towards Syria are due to resume on March 19. They held two days of negotiations in Washington last week.