The Manbij road map primarily focuses on the withdrawal of the PKK-affiliated YPG terror group from the city in order to create a safe zone for refugees in the northern Syria.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar meets with James Jeffrey, the US special envoy for Syria in Ankara, Turkey, March 5, 2019.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar meets with James Jeffrey, the US special envoy for Syria in Ankara, Turkey, March 5, 2019. (AA)

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar hosted US special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, in the capital Ankara on Tuesday, a defence ministry statement said.

Akar and Jeffrey discussed the recent developments in Syria, east of the Euphrates and the Manbij road map, the statement read.

During the meeting, Akar reiterated his country’s expectation over the finalisation of the Manbij road map between Turkey and the US and Ankara's sensitivity for the territorial integrity of Syria, the statement added.

The Manbij road map focuses on the withdrawal of the PKK-affiliated YPG terror group from the city in order to stabilise the region.

Turkey’s defence chief also underlined that a projected safe zone east of the Euphrates should be free of PKK/YPG terrorists and its safety must be secured by Turkey.

Akar also emphasised that Turkey is determined to protect its rights and interest under international law.

Turkish and US troops are pictured during a joint patrol in Manbij area, northern Syria November 8, 2018.
Turkish and US troops are pictured during a joint patrol in Manbij area, northern Syria November 8, 2018. (Reuters Archive)

Getting weapons back from YPG/PKK

One of Turkey’s top concerns is that the US, while withdrawing, will take back weapons and ammunition it gave to the YPG/PKK militants, as it pledged.

In its more than 30-year armed campaign against the Turkish state, the PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU, has been responsible for the death of more than 40,000 people. 

The YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK terror group and dominates the majority of the US-backed SDF militia.

The US has allied itself with the PKK/YPG to fight Daesh in Syria, but Turkey says that using one terror group to fight another makes no sense.

Turkey also does not want US bases to fall into the hands of the terrorists after its withdrawal, saying they should either be destroyed or handed over to Turkey.

During negotiations in Ankara and Washington, Turkish officials repeatedly said that if the US troop withdrawal happens before a mutual agreement is reached in line with Turkey’s security concerns, Ankara reserves its right to self-defence.

Since Washington declared the pullout in mid-December, Turkey has been warning of the power vacuum that the withdrawal could create in the region.

Power vacuum

Once the US pulls out, Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad's forces, Iran, and even Russian military police could enter the area unless an agreement with Ankara is reached beforehand.

Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), said on February 11 that the pullout is likely to begin within weeks and that he expects no increase in US troops in Iraq.

But other officials said the pullout is expected to be completed by summer, based on the situation on the ground.

On February 13, acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan said Washington will establish a multinational observer force to take its place in northeastern Syria.

A Turkish official, speaking anonymously due to restrictions on talking to the media, pointed out that Turkey is still a member of the US-led coalition to fight Daesh.

The official said the US intention to give Turkey a symbolic place in the coalition observer force is meant to prevent it from having a powerful military presence in northeastern Syria.

Turkey, however, plans to push the YPG/PKK at least 30-40 kilometres south of its border and take military measures to block the terror group.

Turkey plans to oppose figures linked to the YPG/PKK terror group taking posts in administrative units as part of joint US-Turkey efforts in Manbij, northern Syria.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies