US Syria envoy discusses region, S-400 with Turkish officials

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 06.03.2019 00:32

The U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the special envoy for the anti-Daesh coalition, James Jeffrey, carried out several meetings with officials from the Defense and Foreign Ministries to discuss issues related to Syria and Ankara's purchase of the S-400 missile defense system.

The coordination on the U.S. pullout from Syria, strategies for a post-U.S. period in the northern parts of the country controlled by the PKK terrorist group's Syrian offshoot the People's Protection Units (YPG), the fight against the PKK and Daesh, the implementation of the Manbij road map and the S-400 purchase from Russia were among the top issues on the agenda in the meetings between Jeffrey and the Turkish delegation, which was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal. Jeffrey also conducted a meeting with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

A Turkey-U.S. joint task force established to coordinate the U.S. withdrawal from Syria met in Ankara on Thursday and Friday. The meetings focused on details of troop withdrawal from east of the Euphrates and Manbij, the safe zone to be established in northern Syria, and Washington's vow to take back weapons given to the terrorist PKK-affiliated YPG. U.S. President Donald Trump announced mid-December that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Syria, noting that the only reason U.S. troops were in Syria was to defeat Daesh, which he said was accomplished, later saying that "local countries," including Turkey, should "take care" of the situation and deal with the remaining terror threat.

Trump's sudden decision prompted divergent voices and criticism suggesting that Daesh continues to be a threat, and it would be a betrayal to the U.S.' ally on the ground, the YPG, which Turkey sees as a national threat. The U.S. currently has more than 2,000 troops deployed in Syria, but announced last December that they were leaving, revising their statement last week to say some 200-400 would stay.

One of Turkey's top concerns is that U.S., while withdrawing, takes back the weapons and ammunition it gave to the YPG, as it pledged.

Turkey and the U.S. remain at odds over the latter's Syria policy, which is centered on support to the globally-recognized terrorist group PKK's Syrian wing YPG. The U.S. allied itself with the YPG to fight Daesh in Syria, but Turkey argued that using one terror group to fight another makes no sense.

Jeffrey, a former ambassador to Turkey, has also confessed that the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the YPG, are indeed the Syrian affiliates of the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S. and EU as well.

"That local partner since 2014 has been the Democratic Union Party which is the Syrian offshoot of PKK but we have not designated it as a terrorist organization, which we did with the PKK," Jeffrey had said earlier.

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