US and Turkey to cooperate in Syria’s liberated zones: Mattis
“We concur with Turkey on the need for locals taking control of the liberated areas. We are going to work with Turkey on locals taking control, and with Turkey on every other irritant, diversion, or distraction,” Mattis said.
“We have many areas of absolute concurrence too,” Mattis told reporters en route to Washington, according to a statement from the Department of Defense.
Mattis said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu agreed on “significant” issues that the two countries would work through.
Tillerson on Feb. 15 made a two-day working visit to the Turkish capital Ankara, where he met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Çavuşoğlu to discuss several issues including strained bilateral ties and regional developments, particularly in Syria and Iraq.
Pushing the button to repair damaged bilateral ties, Turkey and the U.S. “reaffirmed their mutual and unequivocal commitment to each other’s security and to the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity” in a joint statement on Feb. 16.
The two countries “agreed to establish a results-oriented mechanism,” which will be activated no later than mid-March.
Asked how this mechanism would work in Syria’s Afrin and Manbij, Mattis said there was a “commitment” to work it out.
“How would the mechanisms work, for example, in Afrin. That’s exactly what we have to work out ... We are going to put them in place,” he said.
Relations between the two countries have been strained over U.S. support for the Kurdish militant group the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Syria. Ankara views the YPG as organically linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed by both Turkey and the U.S. as a listed terror network.
In the joint statement, the two countries also reaffirmed their determination to jointly combat terrorism in all its forms. “Turkey and United States reiterate their resolve to fight against [ISIL], the PKK, al-Qaeda and all other terror organizations and their extensions,” the statement read.