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US, Turkey agree on 'roadmap' over Syria's Kurdish Manbij city

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Vehicles of US-backed coalition forces drive in the northern Syrian town of Manbij on April 3, 2018. (AFP photo)

The US and Turkish officials have agreed on a roadmap to cooperate over the security of the northern Syrian city of Manbij following months of dispute between the two NATO allies over the presence of Kurdish militia in the region.

US officials held talks with their Turkish counterparts in Ankara on Friday as part of a working group on Syria.

"The two sides outlined the main contours of a roadmap for their further cooperation in ensuring security and stability in Manbij," said a statement issued by the Turkish foreign ministry and the US embassy in Ankara.

The working group was formed to resolve the disputes between Ankara and Washington over Manbij after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in February. Later in March, Turkish officials visited Washington as part of the working group.

Cavusoglu and the new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will "consider the recommendations" of the working group during their planned meeting on June 4, the joint statement said.

Last December, US President Donald Trump approved providing weapons worth $393 million to what Washington calls partners in Syria, including the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The following month, the US announced plans to create a 30,000-strong force comprised of Kurdish militants, which would be deployed along the Turkish border.

The US measures prompted Ankara to launch the ongoing Olive Branch offensive against the purported positions of the YPG in Syria’s northwestern enclave of Afrin in January without permission from the Syrian government.

Later, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to take the offensive to Manbij, raising concerns over the likelihood of a confrontation between Turkish and American troops.

According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, more than 280 civilians have been killed during the Turkish offensive.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

This is while US officials regard the YPG as the most effective fighting force against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the group.

About 2,000 US troops are deployed in northeast Syria in territories under the control of Kurdish militants. Both Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly warned that the illegal US presence in Syria is meant to disintegrate the country.

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