Turkey's Erdogan, Trump agree on steps for stronger ties

Turkey's Erdogan, Trump agree on steps for stronger ties

There are U.S. forces in the Sunni Arab-majority Manbij - which lies just 30 kilometres south of the Turkish border - and Washington has been closely working with the YPG in the fight against IS.

US President Donald Trump spoke on Thursday with Erdogan, with the Turkish leader's office saying both sides had stressed their determination to strengthen ties.

The U.S. -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) resumed shelling the last Islamic State (IS)-held pocket in eastern Syria Thursday after temporarily halting its operation as a result of Turkish shelling, a war monitor reported. But, apart from the recent statement by the Pentagon about the launch of joint patrols soon in Manbij, none of these promises were kept as the YPG was expected to leave the city by September 5.

Ankara, however, views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey, the US and European Union all consider to be a terrorist organization. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces "temporarily" suspended offensive actions against ISIS in response to cross-border attacks by Turkey, Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the USA -led coalition fighting the jihadi group, said on Twitter on Thursday.

U.S. relations with Turkey, one of its closest allies in the Middle East for decades, have been strained nearly to breaking point in recent months by differences over Syria, Iran and Ankara's planned purchase of Russian military equipment.

Palladino said the U.S.is fully committed to Turkey's border security but at the same time expressed Washington's commitment to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian forces.

Part of the roadmap calls for joint US-Turkish patrols near Manbij, which Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday would begin any day. "We can come suddenly any night", he said.

The plan foresees the withdrawal of the YPG from the region where American and Turkish soldiers were expected to conduct joint patrols.

The city is controlled by the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey considers a terrorist group.

In a speech to the Turkish parliament on Tuesday, President Erdogan said that the latest attacks marked the beginning of "more extensive and effective operations" against YPG positions east of the Euphrates.

However Turkey has repeatedly threatened a new offensive in northern Syria and has shelled YPG positions there in the past couple of days.

"Planning and preparations for this have already been completed".

The US military estimates around 2,000 IS fighters are holed up in and around Hajin along the Euphrates River valley in Deir el-Zor province near the border with Iraq.

ISIS has been driven to just a few towns in the area and the USA and its coalition allies conducted 184 air and artillery strikes last week targeting the terror group's last remaining territory, striking command and control centers, weapons caches and vehicles.

Then in June, Ankara has agreed with Washington on joint action to maintain security in the region.

"Offensive operations have been halted, defensive operations continue".

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