Turkey and the United States continue to make further efforts to implement the road plan on Syria's northeastern province of Manbij despite the recent crisis over imprisoned U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson.
In a statement released on the Ministry of Defense website, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkish and U.S. armed forces were continuing activities as planned to provide security and stability in the region in accordance with the Manbij road map. "Joint training between both countries' armed forces for patrol activities is expected to start soon," Akar said.
Akar's remarks came after the U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said training for a joint Turkish-American patrol in the northern Syrian city of Manbij would start "shortly." Training for the combined patrols is "starting shortly in Turkey. The gear is in. The officers are in ... and it will start shortly," the Department of Defense quoted Mattis as saying in a statement Thursday.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also made a statement over the weekend in regards to the Manbij road map. "Even though there are delays in the schedule the process goes forward without disruption. Now the joint patrol is in the making," he said. He added that Turkey and the U.S would make a decision together as to the future of Manbij.
Ankara and Washington previously agreed to implement a three-tier plan for Manbij. In the first part, the PKK's Syrian affiliate the People's Protection Units (YPG) started to withdraw from the town.
In line with the road map, the YPG started to leave Manbij on July 4. In the second part of the plan, Turkey and the U.S. were expected to start jointly monitoring the city after 45 days. In the third part of the plan, the local government would be established in 60 days.
Turkey supports a plan to establish an administration in Manbij consisting of local elements just like it did before in the areas cleared from Daesh and YPG terrorists with Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch.
According to the third part of Manbij road map, the military council will establish security for the city and the city council, which will provide services, will be established according to the population's ethnicity, which is 90 percent Arab.
Both Turkey and the United States have been indicating that the two sides will not let the current Brunson crisis affect the Manbij road map. Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said last week that there is no disruption to the ongoing operations in Manbij, despite the recent row between Ankara and Washington. "We expect [the YPG] to withdraw completely to the east of the Euphrates," Kalın added during a news conference in Ankara.
U.S. military officials have previously said that the recent strained tensions will not affect the bilateral military relations, particularly the deal over Manbij. Also, Felix Gedney, who is deputy commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said at a news briefing via teleconference at the Department of Defense, "We've seen no change in our relationship with our Turkish allies."