Turkey, US agree to speed up progress in roadmap for 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

Turkey and the United States have agreed to speed up efforts to put in place an agreement on the Syrian city of Manbij by the end of the year, a working committee between the NATO allies said on Friday, Reuters reported.

Earlier this year Turkey and the US reached a deal on Manbij after months of disagreement under which the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) militia is to completely withdraw from the town. Ankara, which considers the YPG a terrorist organization, says the withdrawal has yet to happen.

During Friday’s meeting the two sides also agreed to continue to work on joint planning with regard to other areas as mentioned in the Manbij roadmap.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 17 told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Turkey can easily clear northern Syria’s Manbij city of the YPG if the United States fails to do so, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said.

Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday told reporters that the working group would convene in Ankara to discuss “what will be done to the east of the Euphrates,” the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

The meeting is part of a mechanism established between Ankara and Washington for discussions on problematic issues between the two NATO allies in Syria, such as the presence of the YPG, and for further cooperation in the war-torn country.

On Dec. 3 Jeffrey suggested ending the Astana talks on the future of the country, promoting the UN-led Geneva talks. “The US view is let’s pull the plug on Astana,” the envoy said at a briefing in Washington, claiming that the Astana parties — Russia, Turkey and Iran — have failed to advance efforts for a Syria constitutional committee.

Çavuşoğlu refuted Jeffrey’s argument that the Astana process was not functioning. He called the US envoy’s remarks “unfortunate” and “wrongful.”

“If the cease-fire in Syria is still preserved, even despite the violations, if today we can still talk about a political process, if we can discuss the constitutional committee … they have been achieved thanks to the Astana process and Sochi [talks],” he said.

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