The United States and Ankara agreed on Friday to try to mend the relationship, with Turkey proposing a joint deployment in Syria if a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia leaves a border area.
After talks in Ankara, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu announced the creation of new "mechanisms" to improve the relationship, starting with the question of American support for Kurdish YPG militants in northern Syria. He had met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a more than three-hour discussion on Thursday night. According to the AFP, in a hugely unusual break from protocol, the only other official present at Tillerson's meeting with Erdoğan at the presidential palace was Çavuşoglu who also acted as translator, US sources said.
"We are not going to act alone any longer, not US doing one thing, Turkey doing another," Tillerson told a news conference after meeting with Mevlüt Çavuşoglu on Friday morning. "We will work together... we have good mechanisms on how we can achieve this, there is a lot of work to be done," he added.
However, details of the rapprochement were vague as the two sides agreed in principle only to form working groups that will begin meeting within the month to examine points of contention and try to resolve them.
Tillerson said the first working group would deal with the issue of the town of Manbij, held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militant and where the United States has a military presence.
"Manbij is going to be given priority in our joint working effort," he said.
Çavuşoglu said Ankara would be able to take joint steps with the United States in Syria once the YPG left the vicinity of Manbij. He also said the two countries had created a "mechanism" for further talks and would meet again by mid-March to further hash out their differences.
In a proposal, a Turkish official told Reuters that Turkey had proposed that Turkish and U.S. forces could deploy jointly in Manbij.
According to Reuters, such a joint deployment could take place if YPG militants first withdrew to positions east of the Euphrates river, long a Turkish demand. Neither Tillerson nor Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish foreign minister, directly responded to a question about Reuters' report of a possible joint deployment to Manbij.
In a joint statement, Washington and Ankara agreed they would "decisively stand against all attempts to create faits accomplis and demographic changes within Syria" as part of their commitment to the preservation of Syria's territorial integrity.
RUSSIAN S-400 AIR DEFENCE SYSTEM
Another matter discussed was Turkey's planned purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system that has drawn criticism from the U.S. and other NATO allies. Turkey could face sanctions under U.S. law passed last year to punish Russia if it goes ahead with the deal. Tillerson said that the issue had been discussed in light of the fact that the US Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) may have been violated.
He said U.S. and Turkish experts would meet to discuss what the ramifications of the purchase would be. "We want to consult with Turkey and make sure they at least understand what may be at risk with this transaction". He said that some countries are already reconsidering deals with Russia based on discussions with U.S. officials about the impact of the legislation.
The two countries adopted a joint statement following a two-day visit of Tillerson. Turkey and the United States have reaffirmed their commitment to the "preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity", the joint statement, adopted on Friday, said.
"Turkey and the United State reaffirm their commitment to the preservation of the territorial integrity and national unity of Syria. To this end, we will decisively stand against all attempts to create faits accomplis and demographic changes within Syria, and are dedicated to coordination on transition and stabilization of Syria," the statement read.
The current strategy of the US in Syria is to divide the country, to create Kurdish protectorate in the north and to leave most of the resources of the country under the control of this protectorate. AKP government objects to the issue of how Syria will be divided rather than its division.
'ISLAMIC STATE, AL-QAEDA AND PKK'
The sides have also reaffirmed their determination to counter terrorism through the fight against the Islamic State and Al Qaeda terrorist groups, as well as against the militant Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
"The Republic of Turkey and the United States, as longstanding Allies, reaffirm their determination to joint combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Turkey and the United States reiterate their resolve to fight against DAESH, PKK, Al Qaeda, and all other terrorist organizations and their extensions,” the statement read.