The Turkish government will urge the U.S. to agree to the past census results from Manbij in northern Syria in distributing administrative powers after the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) withdraw from the town, high-level diplomatic sources said.
Speaking to Daily Sabah on condition of anonymity, the sources said that Ankara will insist on the withdrawal of the YPG from the town, adding that Turkish authorities will urge the United States to agree to apply the census results in Manbij to decide on who will run the town after the YPG leaves the area.
After U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Ankara last month to mend marred ties and met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the two sides agreed to establish a mechanism to sort out the Manbij issue.
Designed to salvage ties, the new mechanism is said to scrutinize the main sources of concern between the two countries to find solutions. "We brought forward proposals on how we can address all of the critical issues that are standing between our countries," Tillerson said on Feb. 16 at a joint press conference. Çavuşoğlu said that these mechanisms do not mean prolonging current crises. "To the contrary, they will be mechanisms to get results."
In this respect, the sources said that Ankara plans to submit an offer to Washington in the mechanism, saying that the city council of Manbij should be run by groups in line with their ratio of representation. Turkish government will point to past censuses in Manbij before demographic changes in the area. Manbij used to be considered a predominantly Arab town.
The first meeting to kick off the mechanism is expected to be held on March 8-9 in Washington. Three committees have been set up so far for issues such as consular matters, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and the fight against terrorist groups and Iraq.
Manbij has been a source of high tension between Ankara and Washington. There was speculation recently that Turkish and American soldiers could confront each other in the area after Ankara signaled that a military operation could be launched there.
Ankara has long called for the YPG to move east of the Euphrates River. It has also previously said it might extend its counterterrorism operation to Manbij. U.S. troops are already stationed near Manbij.
Previously, the U.S. administration under former President Barack Obama had promised Ankara that the YPG would move east of the Euphrates. However, despite warnings from Ankara, the YPG did not move east of the Euphrates.
In light of the U.S.'s broken promises, the joint mechanism and meetings between Çavuşoğlu and Tillerson are glimpses of hope for a solution. Meanwhile, the foreign minister and the secretary of state are expected to meet on March 19 in Washington, according the sources.