Erdogan to Trump: Turkey ready to take over Manbij security

Press TV – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country is prepared to take over security in Syria’s northern town of Manbij where a deadly bomb attack killed several American soldiers last Wednesday.

Erdogan made the remarks in a phone conversation with US President Donald Trump on Sunday, according to a statement by the Turkish presidency.

Erdogan told Trump that the attack was a “provocation” aimed at affecting his last month’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria, the statement said.

Since the withdrawal announcement, Manbij has been a major bone of contention between Ankara and Washington over the fate of US-backed YPG fighters in the war-torn country.

Last month, the Syrian army entered the city, marking the return of territories held by YPG militants to the government for the first time in years.

The city had been held by YPG militia, which Turkey regards as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey had been sending the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants to Manbij in recent years, reportedly in preparation for an offensive to drive YPG fighters out of the city.

The White House also confirmed the phone talk, but did not specifically mention Erdogan’s comments about Manbij.

“The two leaders agreed to continue to pursue a negotiated solution for northeast Syria that achieves our respective security concerns. They also discussed their mutual interest in expanding the trade relationship between the United States and Turkey,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

Erdogan and Trump also agreed to accelerate discussions between their chiefs of staff about establishing a safe zone in northeastern Syria, according to the Turkish presidency.

In another phone talk with the Turkish president last week, Trump proposed that a “security zone” be set up under Turkey’s control along the Syrian side of the two countries’ border, a proposition rejected by US-backed Kurdish militants and Russia.

The US has been arming and training Kurdish militants under the banner of helping them fight Daesh, but Syria and several other countries see ulterior motives behind the deployment.

On December 19, Trump claimed US troops had succeeded in their mission to defeat Daesh terrorists in Syria, announcing, he was bringing home some 2,000 American forces deployed there.

The announcement was followed by the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the so-called anti-Daesh coalition in Syria and Iraq.

In his first television interview since resigning, McGurk said that “ISIS (Daesh) is not defeated,” and that the US had no plan for Syria.

“There’s no plan for what’s coming next,” he said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“Right now, we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force… It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for ISIS.”