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Turkey, U.S. agree to normalize relations to defuse tensions

By Ed Adamczyk
Turkey, U.S. agree to normalize relations to defuse tensions
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met in Ankara on Friday and announced the two countries will normalize ties and seek to resolve diplomatic differences. Photo courtesy Turkish Foreign Ministry

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Turkey and the United States agreed Friday to defuse a crisis in northern Syria, the Turkish foreign minister said after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the two countries reached an "understanding to normalize" relations. He and Tillerson met on Friday in Ankara to iron out disputes that have brought about the most severe tensions in years between the two NATO allies.

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The diplomats agreed that resolving a dispute over the Syrian city of Manbij is a priority. Turkey has threatened to attack the city, which has been controlled by Kurdish forces and U.S. troops since it was taken in 2016 from the Islamic State by the Kurdish People's Protection Units.

The military group, known as YPG, is regarded by Turkey as a terrorist organization.

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"We will start with Manbij. We will ensure it. Who administers these provinces and who provides security for them is important to reach stability. We can take steps with the U.S. on this issue after YPG militants are removed from Manbij," Çavuşoğlu said after the meeting. "We have to be sure the YPG will withdraw to the east of the Euphrates [River]. The YPG has to leave Manbij first. This is already a U.S. promise to Turkey."

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Last week, a U.S. general promised an aggressive response if Turkey attacked Manbij.

After Friday's meeting, Tillerson noted the United States' "deep and important relationship with Turkey," and said Washington and Ankara "share the same objectives" in defeating IS and achieving a unified Syria. He also promised that the United States would not "act alone" in Syria, and that weapons provided the Syrian Democratic Forces, largely comprised of YPG groups, will be "limited, mission-specific and provided on [an] incremental basis to achieve military objectives."

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During the meeting, Tillerson said, he and Cavusoglu "clarified objectives" and "reached a consensus."

"Our relationship with Turkey is enduring and strategic," he later said in a Twitter message.

The secretary of state also urged Ankara to release U.S. citizens jailed in Turkey.

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Cavusoglu said Turkey and the United States will "establish mechanisms" to tackle a list of disagreements with a meeting scheduled for next month.

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