TEHRAN (defapress)- The protection of allied forces who fought and died battling ISIL (ISIS or Daesh) in Syria must be guaranteed, the US secretary of state told his Turkish counterpart in a phone conversation.
News ID: 75136
Publish Date: 22January 2019 - 15:45
Mike Pompeo and Mevlut Cavusoglu talked on Monday as the NATO allies try to reach an agreement over the fate of Washington-backed, Kurdish-led fighters who fought against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant following the planned withdrawal of US troops from Northern Syria, Al-Jazeera reported.
The US State Department said Pompeo also reiterated Washington's commitment to addressing Turkey's security concerns along the Turkish-Syrian border.
In the phone conversation, Pompeo emphasised "the importance that the United States places on the protection of forces that worked with the United States and the global coalition to defeat ISIS", Spokesman Robert Palladino said in a press release.
The US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which spearhead the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) operations, played a key role in the removal of ISIL fighters after the armed group captured vast territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014.
Ankara considers the YPG a "terrorist" group with ties to the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody war in Turkey since the 1980s demanding Kurdish autonomy.
The US demand for the YPG militia's safety has been a source of growing tensions between the NATO allies, which led to President Donald Trump threatening Turkey with economic "devastation" if it hits the armed group in Northern Syria.
In a surprise move, Trump announced on December 19 that the United States would pull its 2,000 soldiers out of Northeastern Syria quickly, declaring ISIL had been defeated - a view not shared by many security experts and policy advisers.
US officials have since been walking back Trump's timeline, suggesting conditions for any such withdrawal would be finishing off ISIL - and Turkey assuring the safety of its allied Kurdish fighters.
In a phone conversation on Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Trump that Turkey was ready to take over security in Manbij, a town in Northeastern Syria held by the SDF and YPG, where four Americans died in an ISIL-claimed suicide bombing last week.
Ankara has long demanded that YPG-led forces move to the East of the Euphrates River in Syria and leave control of Manbij to the Turkish army and its allied militias.
Trump and Erdogan have discussed creating a safe zone in Syria starting at the Syrian-Turkish border, but its unclear if any progress has been made.
Turkey has vowed to launch a new cross-border military operation to wipe out the YPG in Manbij.
The armed group's predominance East of the Euphrates River in Northern Syria is a prime threat to Turkey that will be eliminated, Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey's ruling AK party, said on Monday, adding, "Those talking about Syria's territorial integrity and its people's sovereignty should take a principled stance against terror groups."
"Turkey has the capacity to fight Daesh [ISIL] and to take over security in Manbij. Thus, it has the capacity to form a safe zone [in Syria]," Celik stated.
The SDF stated last week it was ready to help create a safe zone amid Kurdish fears the US withdrawal would give Ankara the opportunity to launch a new offensive.