New Joint Statement by US-Turkey leads to questions about eastern Syria

The US and Turkey held a meeting and issued a joint statement. According to the US Embassy in Ankara: “On December 7, 2018, the Turkish-U.S. High-Level Working Group on Syria met for the third time, in Ankara.  High level officials from Turkey’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Defense and from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense convened to continue to discuss the promotion of stability and security in Syria.”

They discussed several items. “Both sides affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity and underscored the importance of sustained and irreversible progress on a political solution to the Syrian conflict consistent with UNSCR 2254.”

They also “reiterated their shared commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrians in need and acknowledged substantial efforts by both governments in this regard.”

AND BOTH “sides reaffirmed their resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations originating from within Syria and beyond.” Most important “They committed to accelerated and concrete progress on the Manbij Roadmap by the end of the year.  They agreed to continue to work on joint planning with regard to other areas as mentioned in the Manbij Roadmap.”

The next meeting is scheduled for February.

This comes on the heels of a report by Lawk Ghafuri that “James Jeffrey the US special envoy to Syria says that US support for YPG/SDF is limited & will continue only for sometime, as Washington believes that is the only element in Civil War that US can depend on & reach a solution with regarding the fate of Syrians.”

That report was apparently aired on Kurdistan24, but a link to it was not available, leading to questions about precisely what Jeffrey said. Jeffrey has indicated in the past in discussions with Turkish media that the US saw its partnership with the PYD as temporary and that its main ally is Turkey and that it was only working with what became the SDF to defeat ISIS. But the US has also indicated, including in comments by Jeffrey, that the US intends to stay in eastern Syria, stabilize the area and wait until Iranian “commanded forces” leave Syria.

Statements by the US attempting to articulate its policy in eastern Syria are largely opaque.

Another description of the comments also noted that he stressed that US work with the SDF would be temporary. “We want to have cooperation with Turkey across the board on all Syrian issues,” Jeffrey told reporters after the meetings. “We think that there will be no final conclusion of this (Syria) conflict without very close Turkish-American cooperation, and as I said, Manbij is a good model for that cooperation,” he said

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