Turkey, US in ‘robust dialogue’ over Syria, YPG still ‘principal US partner’: CENTCOM head
The head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said on April 3 that the U.S. is in a “very robust dialogue” with Turkey over Syria, while also insisting that the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), a group viewed as terrorists by Ankara, is Washington’s “principal partner” on the ground.
General Joseph Votel made the remarks at a forum on the situation in Iraq and Syria organized by the United States Institute of Peace, a Washington-based think tank.
Stressing on the importance of communication between the NATO allies to de-escalate the tension and try to resolve issues through discussion, Votel noted that Washington and Ankara have an “open line” of dialogue.
“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,” he added.
Describing the YPG as a “principal partner on the ground,” Votel also claimed that Turkey’s military operation to remove the group from Afrin in northwestern Syria had slowed down coalition operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
He said pressure against ISIL must be maintained and discussion and diplomacy must be utilized to help de-escalate undesirable situations.
When asked whether the YPG’s mobilization in Afrin jeopardized the fight against ISIL and if there is still a path to eliminate ISIL from remaining areas, Votel said there is always a path and the coalition will continue to look at how it will work through this issue.
Touching on the Manbij issue that has created tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL Brett McGurk, as the other speaker at the panel, said the diplomatic process has continued to resolve such tensions
McGurk also claimed that the residents of Manbij are relatively secular and that the presence of certain Islamist groups among Manbij opposition groups could lead to ideological separation within the cit
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to remove YPG militants from Afrin.
Ankara said it might also extend its operation further east to Manbij unless the Kurdish militant group leaves the strategic city.
However, U.S. military support for the YPG in Manbij has strained ties between Ankara and Washington and has led to fears of military clashes between the two NATO allies, since there are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in the city.