Turkey proposed Turkish, US troops station together in Syria's Manbij: Turkish official

Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters are seen in the eastern suburbs of al Bab, Syria on Feb 4, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL (REUTERS) - Turkey has proposed to the United States that Kurdish YPG fighters withdraw to east of the Euphrates river in Syria and that Turkish and US troops be stationed together in the country's Manbij area, a Turkish official said on Friday (Feb 16).

The official, who declined to be identified because the information had not been made public, said the United States was considering the proposal, which was made to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his two-day visit to Ankara.

Tillerson arrived in Turkey on Thursday for two days of what officials have said would likely be uncomfortable discussions between the allies, whose relations have frayed over a number of issues, particularly US support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, seen as terrorists by Turkey.

He and President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday had a"productive and open" discussion on improving ties, a US State Department spokesman travelling with Tillerson said, following weeks of anti-American rhetoric from Ankara.

Turkey launched an air and ground assault last month in Syria's northwest Afrin region to drive the YPG from the area south of its border. Ankara considers the YPG to be an arm of the PKK, a banned group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Ankara has long called for YPG forces to move east of the Euphrates river in Syria. It has also previously threatened to push its troops to the town of Manbij, some 100 km east of the Afrin region. US troops are already stationed near Manbij.

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