Security and stability in northern Syria's Manbij are not at the expected level as talks between Ankara and Washington to build permanent stability in the region and to clear the area of terrorists have been sluggishly progressing, security officials said yesterday. "Yet, our expectations regarding Manbij are not accomplished," officials said at a press conference at the National Defense Ministry. It is estimated that 1,000 terrorists are still present in the region.
National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar met yesterday with the high command of Turkish military to discuss their meeting with a U.S. delegation headed by Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey on Monday.
Akar and the commanders also discussed the possible operation against PKK targets east of the Euphrates. "We conveyed all our opinions and proposals to the delegation. We are now waiting for them to analyze and respond. Once again, we underlined that we will not put up with another delay and we will use our own initiative if necessary," he stated.
Manbij and its surroundings have been controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are predominantly led by the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG), since August 2016 after ousting Daesh terrorists. The increasing power of the YPG with the support of the United States in the region has prompted Ankara to take necessary steps to ensure its national security. "Our activities in the region are performed in line with the Manbij road map agreed on in June 2018 and the security principles defined in May 2018 as a result of numerous meetings with the United States," security officials added.
In addition to the 68 individual patrols carried out in Manbij by the Turkish Armed Forces since June 2018, 31 Turkey-U.S. joint patrols have been carried out since November 2018. These patrols are part of the road map Ankara and Washington agreed on to eject YPG terrorists and to establish stability in the region. However, military officials also said that despite all the efforts, the ultimate goal of the road map is still not accomplished, which is to eliminate the YPG once and for all, to ascertain that all heavy weapons are collected and to help in establishment of a local government reflecting Manbij's demographic situation.
"We are the one and only real power in the region. We proved this during Operation Euphrates Shield, where our military forces fought in close combat, and we still claim that we are the authorized force there," officials said.
Stating that the main aim of the Manbij road map is to eradicate the YPG presence in the region completely, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday that the model of Manbij could also be applied to the "safe zone."
In this respect, Akar met with Jeffrey on Monday to discuss Syria and both sides committed to accelerated and concrete progress on the Manbij road map while also touching upon further proposals to enhance the security of Turkey's border. Cooperation between both side's military delegations for the establishment of the safe zone was agreed on by the delegations.
"The discussions were forthright, positive and productive. The U.S. and Turkey continue to exchange views on mutual concerns in Syria, and we look forward to continuing these discussions," said Jeffrey after the meeting, despite Turkish officials' repetitive statements that expressed their demands have not been fulfilled.
In this respect, Çavuşoğlu said before the meeting with Jeffrey on Tuesday, "If the planned safe zone is not established and threats to Turkey continue, an operation will be launched east of the Euphrates river to oust the YPG from the region." Regarding the aerial ballistic missile defense negotiations, military officials said the aerial defense reinforcement will most likely be deployed on Turkey's southern border, adding that it is expected that the project between Turkish defense industry companies and the French-Italian EUROSAM consortium will be completed in October. In the matter of the reinforcement of Turkey's aerial ballistic missile defense with NATO components, France proposed deploying a SAMP-T missile defense battery when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with his French counterpart after a NATO summit. In 2017, Turkey signed the joint EUROSAM consortium agreement with the Italian and French defense ministers in an intergovernmental agreement at NATO headquarters in Brussels.