Turkish, US officials agree to roadmap for ensuring security in Syria’s Manbij

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A picture taken on April 3, 2018 shows vehicles of US-backed coalition forces driving in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. On the outskirts of Syria's Manbij, Kurdish-led fighters have dug trenches and US-led coalition soldiers patrol from land and sky after Turkey threatened to overrun the northern city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor with sources on the ground, says around 350 members of the US-led coalition -- mostly American troops -- are stationed around Manbij. / AFP PHOTO / Delil SOULEIMAN

Turkish and US officials on Friday agreed to a roadmap for further cooperation to ensure the security of a Kurdish-held city in Syria that has become a major headache between the two NATO allies, according to Agence-France Presse, citing a joint statement.

US officials were in Ankara as part of a working group on Syria. After talks with their Turkish counterparts, the statement was issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the US Embassy in Ankara.

“The two sides outlined the main contours of a roadmap for their further cooperation in ensuring security and stability in Manbij,” the statement said, giving no further details.

The northern city of Manbij is held by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia, a group that Ankara says is the “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey.

The US has a military presence in Manbij and has provided military support to the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group, causing anger among Turkish officials.

After Turkey launched a cross-border operation against the YPG in the western enclave of Afrin in January, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to take the offensive to Manbij. The prospect raised fears of a confrontation between Turkish and American troops.

The offensive also caused tension between the allies because Washington has urged Turkey to show “restraint” and said it could harm the fight against ISIL extremists.

The working group was established to try to resolve the Manbij issue and coordinate US-Turkey efforts in Syria after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and then-US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in February.

Turkish officials were in Washington in March as part of the working group, set up after the threats by Ankara and repeated calls for the YPG to leave the city.

Çavuşoğlu is due to meet new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on June 4.

According to the joint statement, the two men will “consider the recommendations” of the working group during their meeting.

Ankara says the YPG is linked to the PKK, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

The PKK has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

Erdoğan has repeatedly urged the US to end its support for the YPG.

His ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) published a manifesto on Thursday calling for “concrete steps” by the US to end its backing of the YPG and provide “concrete support” to Turkey in its fight against the PKK.

Erdoğan vowed Turkey would “continue its operations in Syria until the last terrorist is cleared.”

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