ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The deal between Turkey and the United States regarding the northern Syrian town of Manbij is delayed “but not completely dead”, President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying by Hurriyet newspaper on Thursday.
Turkey and the United States reached a deal in May over Manbij after months of disagreement. Under the deal, the Kurdish YPG militia would withdraw from Manbij and Turkish and U.S. forces would maintain security and stability around the town.
Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday during his flight back from a visit to Hungary that the implementation of the deal had been delayed.
“There is a delay but (the deal) is not completely dead. U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mattis say they will take concrete steps,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by Hurriyet.
The NATO allies have been carrying out coordinated but independent patrols in the region as part of the deal.
On Tuesday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted by state-run Anadolu news agency as saying that joint training of U.S. and Turkish soldiers for patrols in Manbij had begun.
Washington’s support for the YPG militia in the fight against the Islamic State group has infuriated Ankara, which sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The PKK, considered a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Turkey, has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
Ankara fears advances by the YPG in Syria will embolden Kurdish militants at home.
Relations between Turkey and the United States were further strained over the past few months by the trial of U.S. evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey on terrorism charges, which he denies.
Asked about Brunson’s trial, Erdogan said he was not in a position to interfere with the judiciary.
“Whatever the judiciary decides on, I have to abide by that decision. Those who are involved with this also need to abide by the judiciary’s decision,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by Hurriyet.
The next session in Brunson’s trial will be held on Friday. The trial sparked a row between Ankara and Washington that helped send the lira down around 40 percent against the dollar this year.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Paul Tait)