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Erdogan to Trump; Turkey Ready to Take Security Responsibility in Manbij

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country is ready to provide security in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, where a bomb attack killed several US soldiers on Wednesday, AFP reported Monday.
Erdogan made the remarks during a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump on Sunday, according to a statement from the Turkish presidency.
Erdogan told Trump that the attack was a “provocation” aimed at affecting his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria last month, the statement said.
Since the announcement of the withdrawal, Manbij has been a major issue of contention between Ankara and Washington on the fate of US-backed YPG fighters in this war-torn country.
Last month, the Syrian army entered the city, marking the return of the territories held by YPG militants to the government for the first time in years.
The city was owned by the YPG militia, which Turkey sees as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is banned.
Turkey has been sending the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants to Manbij in recent years, apparently in anticipation of an offensive to oust YPG fighters from the city.
The White House also confirmed the phone conversation, but did not specifically mention Erdogan’s comments on Manbij.
“The two leaders agreed to continue to seek a negotiated solution for north-eastern Syria, which resolves our respective security problems, and discussed their mutual interest in developing trade relations between the United States and Turkey, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
Erdogan and Trump also agreed to speed up talks between their chiefs of staff on creating a security zone in north-eastern Syria, according to the Turkish presidency.
In another phone talks with Turkish President last week, Trump proposed the creation of a “security zone” under Turkish control on the Syrian side of the border between the two countries, a proposal rejected by Kurdish militants supported by the United States and Russia.
The United States has armed and trained Kurdish militants to help them fight Daesh, but Syria and several other countries see unacknowledged reasons behind the deployment.
On Dec. 19, Trump claimed that US troops had successfully defeated Daesh terrorists in Syria, announcing that he would take home some 2,000 US troops deployed in that country.
The announcement was followed by the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, US special envoy to the so-called anti-Daesh coalition in Syria and Iraq.
In his first television interview since his resignation, McGurk said that “the Islamic State (Daesh) is not defeated” and that the United States had no plan for Syria.
“There is no plan for what will follow,” he said Sunday in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“At the moment we do not have a plan, it increases the vulnerability of our force … This increases the risks for our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for ISIS.”
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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