YPG is set to leave Manbij: US State Department spokesperson
The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is set to leave the northern Syrian city of Manbij following a roadmap reached between the U.S. and Turkey, a U.S. spokeswoman told reporters on June 6.
“They [YPG] would move their parties to the east of the Euphrates as part of that agreement,” Heather Nauert told reporters during the State Department’s daily briefing.
“I can just tell you that we agreed to – or there was an arrangement that we came to – with the government of Turkey in that regard and that overall roadmap,” Nauert added, responding to a question on the positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group consisting mainly of YPG forces.
The presser came a day after the two NATO allies reached a roadmap on the YPG’s positions in Manbij, a situation that has caused much crisis between the strategic partners.
Ankara has long been outraged by the U.S. support for the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Ankara says the YPG is the Syria branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist organization.
Tensions mounted after Turkey on Jan. 20 launched “Operation Olive Branch” into Afrin in northern Syria to clear YPG from the area, before it said it might also extend its operation further east to Manbij unless the YPG leaves the strategically-located city.
To sort out the crisis between the longtime allies, diplomatic channels were activated.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was in Washington on June 4 to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, particularly on bilateral cooperation in Syria.
The roadmap on the YPG’s removal includes three stages, with the first 10 days devoted to initial preparations between the militaries and intelligence agencies of the two sides for the withdrawal of the Syrian-Kurdish forces and actions to be taken by the two sides in Manbij, Çavuşoğlu said on June 5, speaking to Ankara bureau chiefs of media outlets in the Mediterranean resort town of Antalya.
In the second stage, he said, teams from both sides will hold meetings to conclude preparations. In the third stage the implementation of the roadmap will be carried out, the minister added.
Roadmap is conditional, US says
Nauert said the roadmap is actually “conditional.”
“Look, the secretary endorsed, along with the foreign minister of Turkey, a general roadmap,” Nauert said.
“I want to be clear that this is going to be conditions-based. That means that things can change over time as conditions change on the ground.”
Nauert also said both parties are committed to “peace in Manbij.”
“This is a beginning of a series of conversations that will inevitably continue. Whether it’s between the foreign minister and the secretary or if it’s at the staff level, these kinds of conversations will continue,” the spokeswoman said.
“We want to have peace and stability in Manbij, and that is something that we are both committed to. We have worked on this very, very hard with our NATO ally Turkey, and look forward to having greater peace and stability in that region.”