U.S. Denies Deal with Turkey on American Kurdish Allies from Manbij

A convoy of US armoured vehicles near Yalanli village on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, on March 5, 2017
AFP DELIL SOULEIMAN

The Trump administration this week refuted news reports claiming the U.S. had reached an agreement with Turkey on a plan for the withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Syria’s Manbij.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, declared, according to Reuters, “We don’t have any agreements yet with the government of Turkey. We’re continuing to have ongoing conversations regarding Syria and other issues of mutual concern.”

Nauert acknowledged that U.S. and Turkish officials met in Ankara last week to discuss Manbij.

Her comments came after Turkey claimed that the United States had agreed to a multi-phase roadmap for Manbij that would see the Kurdish YPG militia leave the northern city.

Referring to the alleged YPG withdrawal plan, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed Wednesday, “This action plan could be applied by the end of summer. Turkish and American soldiers will jointly supervise the withdrawal,” according to the Turkish state-owned news outlet Anadolu Agency (AA).

The Turkish agency reported that the so-called Manbij plan is expected to take effect on June 4, citing anonymous “sources familiar to the meetings between delegations” from Turkey and the United States.

If the plan goes ahead as reported, the YPG will be required to leave Manbij 30 days after Turkey and the United finalize the alleged deal in June.

On Friday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry reiterated that it had outlined the Manbij roadmap during negotiations with a visiting U.S. delegation in Ankara.

Cavusoglu reportedly stressed that the agreement between Turkey and the U.S. is intended to bring ”stability” to “all of Syria’s northeast,” a region mainly controlled by the YPG, the fighting wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

U.S.-backed YPG troops and Turkish troops and their allies are locked in a stand-off in Kurdish-controlled Manbij.

The United States and Turkey are actively trying to defuse the tensions between them.

Referring to the situation in Manbij where the United States has already established a presence, Gen. Joseph Votel, the top American commander in the Middle East, noted in April:

So where they feel the need to conduct operations for their own security, we have the ability to talk with them about that and make sure that we are deconflicted and that we are not putting our forces in a position where they have to make kind of binary choices here.

Ankara has long considered the YPG to be an extension of the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), but Turkey’s NATO ally the United States continues to lend support to the Kurdish fighters.

Although the United States considers the YPG to be useful allies against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), it refused to come to the aid of the Kurds earlier this year when Turkey pushed them out of Afrin.

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