US ready for Manbij-focused roadmap with Turkey: Mattis
US Secretary of Defence James Mattis (L) shakes hands with Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli prior to a meeting of NATO defence ministers at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Virginia Mayo
"We are prepared to go forward with the collaboration across the forward line of our own troops, which starts with knowing where each of us is at," Mattis told reporters, referring to Turkish military forces.
"Then start patrols on each side, saying ‘I see you, you see me’ and then probably some kind of collaborative patrols inside that pocket."
Mattis also noted that the military factors are now in execution for the Manbij-focused roadmap, adding that U.S. and Turkish officials will also meet in Stuttgart, Germany this week to discuss the military implementation of the plan.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his American counterpart Mike Pompeo last week reaffirmed the joint roadmap drawn up by Ankara and Washington for stabilizing the Syrian city of Manbij.
The northern city of Manbij is held by the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group which Ankara says is the “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The U.S. has a military presence in Manbij and has provided military support to the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), causing anger from Turkey.
The U.S.-Turkish plan oversees the withdrawal of YPG militants from Manbij in northern Syria and the security of the region to be maintained by Turkish and U.S. soldiers.
Çavuşoğlu said the roadmap would be implemented in three stages, which would focus on the removal of YPG/PKK forces from Manbij, the removal of YPG/PKK affiliated individuals from local governing organizations and the establishment of joint U.S.-Turkish patrols and a new local governing administration based on the local population.
Following a visit by former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Ankara in February, Turkey and the U.S. established a mechanism to address separate issues in working groups, including the stabilization of Manbij and to prevent any undesirable clashes.