Turkish, US military officials reach agreement on plan for 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

Turkey’s military said Thursday that Turkish and US officials, meeting in Germany this week, have reached an agreement on a plan for the strategic Syrian town of Manbij, which was a source of tension between the two NATO allies, The Associated Press reported.

A military statement said Turkish and US military officials met at the US European Command headquarters in Stuttgart on June 12 and 13 and reached an agreement on a “Manbij Implementation Plan.” It said the plan would be discussed by senior officials from the two countries but provided no details.

Turkey and the US have offered differing descriptions of their roadmap for Manbij, but a US-backed Kurdish militia group is expected to retreat to the east of the Euphrates River, meeting a long-standing Turkish demand.

Turkey has repeatedly called on the US to stop backing the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it considers terrorists and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) within its own borders.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on June 4 in Washington and endorsed a roadmap for the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij.

The US-backed force has been instrumental in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and pushing them out of northern Syria, including in Manbij.

The agreement came as an international human rights group said Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters have seized, looted and destroyed property of Kurdish civilians in the northern Kurdish region of Afrin.

Human Rights Watch said the rebels have installed fighters and their families in residents’ homes and destroyed and looted civilian properties without compensating the owners.

Turkey launched an air and ground offensive in the Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin on Jan. 20, and captured most of it two months later.

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