Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has just concluded a meeting in Washington D.C. with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. According to Cavusoglu, the two discussed Turkey’s concerns regarding Washington’s relationship with the terror groups FETO and PKK as well as US threats to delay or cease delivery of the F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. The following joint statement was released subsequent to the meeting:
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on June 4 in Washington, D.C. They reaffirmed that Turkey and the United States remain committed to addressing their common concerns in a spirit of allied partnership.
Mevlut Cavusoglu and Secretary Pompeo exchanged views on bilateral and regional issues. They reaffirmed their joint resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
They considered the recommendations of the Turkey-U.S. Working Group on Syria pertaining to the future of our bilateral cooperation in Syria on issues of mutual interest, to include taking steps to ensure the security and stability in Manbij. They endorsed a Road Map to this end and underlined their mutual commitment to its implementation, reflecting their agreement to closely follow developments on the ground.
Minister Cavusoglu and Secretary Pompeo also discussed Turkey-U.S. relations and agreed to hold further meetings of the working group mechanism to resolve current outstanding issues in the bilateral relationship. An initial session of the Working Group on Judicial and Other Issues took place immediately after the meeting of the Minister and the Secretary”.
The statement is notable for its absence of any specifics, especially regarding the road map for Manbij, a northern Syrian city currently under the occupation of an outlawed YPG/PKK regime, but crucially an area where there are many US troops and assets. Previously, Turkish officials have stated that a preliminary agreement to work with the US to disarm and disperse YPG/PKK terrorists from Manbij and to work collaboratively to install a new local government formed by indigenous Syrian Arabs was in place. While the US initially denied that such a preliminary agreement had been formed, today’s statement appears to confirm what Turkish Foreign Ministry officials have been saying for over a week, insofar as a road map for returning Manbij to normalcy has been agreed. The plan to expel the YPG/PKK first from Manbij and then other areas, before working cooperatively to establish a new indigenous local leadership was later confirmed by Cavusoglu as a key part of the road map agreed between Turkey and the United States. The Turkish Foreign Minister also stated any future backing of the YPG/PKK (including as part of the so-called SDF) was “unacceptable”.
While the move may stem the tide of the YPG/PKK’s ethnic cleansing of Arab and non-Kurdish minority communities in Manbij, further questions regarding Washington’s deteriorating relationship with Ankara remain unanswered, particularly in respect of US refusals to extradite terrorist ringleader Fethullah Gulen who currently resides in the United States in spite of multiple Turkish requests for his extradition for terror related crimes including the planning of a failed 2016 coup against the Turkish government.
The US has previously promised Turkey to cease its arming of the YPG/PKK in Syria but thus far, these promises have not amounted to any shift in US strategy in the region. It will only be in the coming weeks and months that Washington’s transparency over its dangerous relationship to radical Kurdish terrorists in the context of the Syrian conflict and even beyond.