Trump, Erdogan talk Syria in phone call

Trump, Erdogan talk Syria in phone call
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Ankara: US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Syrian conflict during a phone call Thursday, the Turkish and US presidencies said.

The news came shortly after it was announced that Turkish and American troops had begun conducting joint patrols in the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

The leaders discussed the cooperation agreement in Manbij, which is held by a US-backed Kurdish militia that Turkey deems a terrorist group, a statement from Turkey’s presidency said.

They also spoke of Idlib, the last major area in Syria still outside the control of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, where a demilitarised zone has been planned.

The presidents agreed to maintain “close contact” and maintained their “determination” to “further strengthen bilateral relations”, according to the statement.

The White House said the two leaders “discussed a desire to work together particularly on their coordination in Syria.”

Erdogan also “expressed his condolences for the tragic loss of life at the Synagogue in Pittsburgh,” Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, referring to the shootings last Saturday of 11 people inside a Jewish temple.

Turkey and the United States have a long-standing alliance as members of NATO, but Washington’s support of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria has strained already tense relations.

Ankara considers the YPG to be a “terrorist offshoot” of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency in Turkey since 1984 with the goal of forming an independent Kurdish state.

To ease ties, the countries agreed to a road map in June that included the YPG withdrawing from Manbij and establishing the joint patrols in the city.

However Turkey has repeatedly threatened a new offensive in northern Syria and has shelled YPG positions there in the past couple of days.

The US-led coalition against IS said on Thursday it was working to “de-escalate” fighting between Turkey and the Kurdish militia.