UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – The US State Department on Wednesday denied media reports of an agreement between the United States and Turkey on a three-step plan to withdraw protection units for the Syrian Kurdish people from the northern city of Manbij.
“We have not reached any agreement yet with the Turkish government,” ministry spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement in Washington.
“We are continuing the ongoing talks on Syria and other issues of mutual concern,” she said. US and Turkish officials met in Ankara last week for talks on the issue, she said.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkey and the United States have reached an agreement on a plan for the withdrawal of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from Syria's Manbij.
— News Observatory (@NewsObservatory) May 30, 2018
Turkey’s official Anatolia news agency reported earlier on Wednesday that Turkey and the United States had reached a technical agreement on the withdrawal plan, a move Turkey has long sought for approval from the United States.
The report came at a time when ties between the two NATO member states were strained by Syria’s policy and Washington’s decision in December to relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Turkey is furious at US support for the SPLA as a terrorist organization and threatens to move its offensive in the northern region of Afrin to Manbaj, further east.
A possible hotspot. In northern Syria there is a military presence of the Syrian government, Kurdish fighters, Syrian armed groups, Turkey and the United States.
Anatolia quoted sources attending the decision-making meetings as saying that the plan, which will be finalized during Turkish Foreign Minister Mouloud Zhaoshoglu’s visit to Washington on June 4, will require the withdrawal of the People’s Protection Units from Manbaj 30 days after signing the agreement.
Turkish and US forces will begin joint supervision in Manbeg, 45 days after signing the agreement, and will form a local administration within 60 days after June 4, the agency said.
Earlier in the day, Zhaošoglu told the Khobar television channel that the timetable for Manbeg’s plans could be put in talks with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo in Washington, and that the plan could be implemented before the end of the summer.
The Turkish minister was quoted as saying on his return flight from Germany that if the Manbij plan was completed, it could be applied throughout northern Syria.
However, a local official in Manbaj later told Reuters that Zawahogoglu’s assertions that US and Turkish forces would temporarily control the area “are premature and untrustworthy.”
Relations between Ankara and Washington have reached a low point, including a ruling this month in Washington to 32 months in jail for a former executive of a Turkish state-owned bank for taking part in a scheme to break sanctions on Iran, a case Turkey has described as a political attack.
– Defense purchases –
Turkey has also raised unease in Washington over its decision to buy Russian surface-to-air missiles (S-400) and has been criticized for the arrest of US priest Andrew Brunson on terrorism charges.
Brunson faces up to 35 years in prison on charges of linking him to a network Ankara accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. The priest denied the charges in a Turkish court this month.
A Senate panel last week approved a $ 716 billion bill on defense policy that includes a measure to prevent Turkey from buying Lockheed aircraft, citing the Brunson case and the Russian missile deal.
However, Turkish FM said his country would meet its needs from another source if the United States did not allow it to buy the planes, adding that Washington was unlikely to back down from the deal.
Turkey has plans to buy more than 100 F-35s. Last year, the Pentagon paid Lockheed a $ 3.7 billion advance to produce 50 aircraft for non-US customers, including Ankara.