Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announces a joint "task force" between Ankara and Washington to focus on the coordinated withdrawal of US troops from war-torn Syria.

Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during his meeting with Turkish press members at the Turkish Ambassador's Residence in Washington, United States on February 6, 2019.
Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during his meeting with Turkish press members at the Turkish Ambassador's Residence in Washington, United States on February 6, 2019. (Mustafa Kamaci / AA)

Ankara and Washington are carrying out joint efforts regarding the US withdrawal of troops from Syria, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.

He announced the formation of a joint "task force" between Turkey and the US that will focus on coordination of American pullout from the war-torn country.

"During the US withdrawal (from Syria) there should not be a vacuum that will be filled by terrorists or pro-regime elements," Cavusoglu said.

Cavusoglu was in the US capital to attend a gathering of 79 countries partnering with the United States against Daesh.

The YPG, which controls east part of Syria and supported by Washington in anti-Daesh operations, is a PKK-linked group that is considered as a terrorist organisation by the US and Turkey.

Turkey has vowed to carry out a counter-terrorist operation in Syria, east of the Euphrates, following two similar successful operations since 2016.

US President Donald Trump made the unexpected decision in December to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, drawing criticism from many allies and security aides, including his own Cabinet.

The decision came after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination in the war-ravaged country.

Earlier in the day, in his speech at a meeting of foreign ministers from member countries of the US-led coalition to defeat Daesh, Cavusoglu called for a coordinated effort to eliminate the remnants of the terror group in Syria and the withdrawal of US troops from the region.

Manbij roadmap steps up a gear

Work on a roadmap to rid Manbij, Syria of PKK/YPG terrorists has accelerated, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"The YPG is still in Manbij, they haven't left yet. They have to be taken out," Cavusoglu said adding that the US had been responsible for a slowdown in the roadmap.

"There has been an acceleration when compared to the past ... in particular, the US  administration and Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo are asking for immediate implementation of this [roadmap]."

He said Ankara and Washington would not have experienced tensions if the Manbij deal had been implemented earlier.

Despite the progress, however, Cavusoglu said the roadmap "must be fully and immediately implemented".

The Manbij deal between Turkey and the US focuses on the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the city to stabilise the region, which is located in the northern part of Syria’s Aleppo province.

Safe zone

On a possible safe zone in Syria, Cavusoglu said concrete ideas have yet to emerge on the issue and Turkey has been holding talks with Russia and working to coordinate with the US.

"It is important what we understand about a ‘safe zone’. That is, if a buffer zone that will safeguard terrorists is envisaged or desired, we are against that," said Cavusoglu.

He said Turkey will support a solution that will address its concerns and bring stability to Syria.

In his remarks, Cavusoglu also said Turkey is aware that some countries had financially encouraged radical groups in Syria to breach the agreement signed by Ankara and Moscow last year to establish a demilitarised zone in the country’s last opposition stronghold of Idlib.

Source: AA