NATO's Scaparrotti to visit Turkey on official trip with Manbij high on agenda

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 30.07.2018 19:17
Updated 30.07.2018 20:02
emReuters Photo/em
Reuters Photo

NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti will visit Turkey next week on an official trip, Anadolu Agency reported late Monday.

The general will discuss the situation in northern Syria, which is home to the key Manbij town, with Turkish officials, sources said.

A roadmap for the stabilization of Manbij was announced following a meeting in Washington between Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in early June. The deal focuses on the withdrawal of the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) from the northern Syrian city of Manbij and on stability in the region. As part of the mutual agreement, first patrols by Turkish and U.S. troops in the region began on June 18.

Sources on the ground have claimed that YPG members who have retreated so far were high-level terrorists of the Manbij Military Council. Most of them had come from northern Iraq's Qandil mountain region, where the PKK headquarters are located.

General Scaparrotti will also visit the Incirlik Air Base in southern Adana province. The commander will then visit Izmir on the Aegean coast, where US. pastor Andrew Craig Brunson is under house arrest. The pastor has been a hot subject of contention between the two nations recently.

A Turkish court ordered the release of Brunson, an American who has been held on terrorism charges since 2016, from jail and commuted his detention to house arrest. One day after the court's ruling, U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened economic sanctions against Turkey.

"The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Addressing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a tweet, Pence also said: "Release Pastor Andrew Brunson NOW or be prepared to face the consequences. If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free."

His remarks came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the court's ruling, but said it was "not enough." He also called on Turkish authorities to "resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner."

Turkey's Foreign Minister responded by saying that Turkey was governed by the rule of law. "We will never tolerate threats from anybody," Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter. He later held a phone call with U.S. counterpart Pompeo regarding the matter. No further details were immediately available.

"No one can threaten or give orders to Turkey," said Hami Aksoy, a spokesman for the ministry. Turkey has shown the political will to improve relations with the U.S., he said, calling on Washington to engage in dialogue.

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