Turkey, US discuss Syria amid Idlib row
U.S. Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey (L) held talks with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in Ankara on Sept. 4.
Turkey and the United States have discussed recent developments in Syria in depth, particularly as concerns escalated over an impending large-scale operation by Russia and Syria into Idlib and over the implementation of a bilateral deal on the Manbij province of the war-torn country.
United States Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey held talks with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal in the Turkish capital on Sept. 4.
Jeffrey had served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ankara between the years of 2008 and 2010 and thus have great knowledge on the importance of Turkish-American ties. Ankara expressed its satisfaction over Jeffrey’s appointment on the grounds that it faced important communication problems with previous Syria special envoy, Brett McGurk.
The top three issues in regards to the current situation on Syrian soil that Turkish officials discussed with Jeffrey were the looming Idlib operation by Syria-Russia, delays in the implementation of the Manbij deal and efforts to speed up political settlement in Syria.
On Idlib, Turkey and the U.S. are on the same page and have expressed that a massive operation into the overpopulated province would create an unprecedented humanitarian tragedy if civilians are not separated from terrorists. Both countries think al-Nusra and affiliated groups should be eliminated but this should be done carefully and without civilian casualties. In a bid to better identify who is a terrorist and who is not in this field, Turkey has sought the U.S. to share intelligence.
Turkey unhappy with delay in Manbij
Another top issue is the Manbij deal that Turkey and the U.S. agreed on June 4, which stipulates the leave of illegal YPG troops from the province so Turkish and American soldiers could take control.
According to sources, Akar expressed Ankara’s disturbance over the continued presence of the YPG in the region with calls for an immediate withdrawal of these forces to the eastern Euphrates.
The YPG, the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK, needs to be pulled back from Manbij by Sept. 4 as outlined by the Turkish-American deal on Manbij. Turkey believes the U.S. is making an effort to delay the process.
The third item is international efforts to find a political settlement to the Syrian question under the auspices of the United Nations. The U.S. believes the only way to achieve a diplomatic solution to the problem is the U.N.-led Geneva process. Turkey, a member of the Astana Process, also thinks its joint efforts with Russia and Iran should be linked with the Geneva process.