ANKARA and Washington have reached an agreement to work together in their occupation of part of northern Syria, where the two NATO allies have been on a collision course over the US’ support for the Kurdish YPG.
Speaking at a joint press conference following a meeting in Ankara, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said Washington and Ankara would establish working groups to resolve the issues that have sparked tensions in ties between the two sides. ‘We are not going to act alone any longer, not US doing one thing, Turkey doing another,’ Tillerson said after the talks. ‘We will work together … we have good mechanisms on how we can achieve this. There is a lot of work to be done,’ he added without elaborating.
The Turkish foreign minister, in turn, said the two sides agreed on the need to normalise their ties.
Reports earlier on Friday suggested that Turkey had proposed that Turkish and US forces be stationed together in Syria’s Manbij region. A Turkish official said that Ankara had made the proposal during Tillerson’s visit and that Washington was considering the issue.
Turkey started the campaign last month in a bid to force Kurdish militias out of the city of Afrin after the US said it would set up a 30,000-strong Kurdish force near the Turkish border. Turkish officials have vowed that after Afrin, they would move some 100 kilometres (60 miles) eastward to capture Manbij and force the Kurds to retreat to the eastern banks of the Euphrates.
Meanwhile Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari stressed that the US and its allies are in Syria to create armed militias which will control oil, gas and water resources and establish a mini-state. The Syrian government is reportedly set to deploy troops to the northern district of Afrin, which has been the target of the month-long Turkish offensive, as part of an agreement with the Kurdish militants operating there.
Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen broadcaster reported on Thursday that Damascus had reached an agreement with the militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to station troops in Afrin with the aim of countering Turkish military attacks. Russia’s Sputnik news agency also quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying that Syrian forces would enter the flashpoint region within ‘the next few days’.