Ankara has hosted talks between Special Presidential Envoys of Turkey and the United States. According to Turkish news agencies, Ibrahim Kalin and Joel Rayburn discussed a wide range of issues related to the military and political situation in Syria and particularly the Idlib governorate, as well as prospects for further negotiationы on the constitutional reform and mending fences over the Syrian Kurds issue settlement.
The American side was pleased to note the Turkish leadership's policy of maintaining and strengthening its military presence in north-western Syria, which contributes to enhancing the influence of Syrian opposition forces and countering attempts by Damascus and Moscow to clear this territory from opponents of Bashar al-Assad's regime. Washington welcomes Ankara's endeavors to rally up the armed groups of Syrian rebels in the Idlib de-escalation zone and tough measures against the Syrian government army.
At the same time, the parties have still failed to narrow the gap on the Kurdish problem in Syria. In an official communiqué, the Turkish side urges American negotiators to give up on supporting any separatist forces threatening Syria's territorial integrity and unity. It also emphasizes devotion to the joint fight against terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State (banned in Russia), the Kurdistan Workers' Party and its major wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is an ally of the United States and the Western coalition.
In turn, representatives of the US State Department drew the Turks' attention to the soaring confrontation between the Ankara-controlled Syrian opposition groups and the Kurdish SDF formations east of the Euphrates river. Moreover, the American side expressed concern about Turkish military and political leadership's repeated statements about its intended military operation in the zone controlled by the United States and its allies in north-eastern Syria.
The military and political leadership of Turkey has repeatedly claimed control of the Manbij city, which, in compliance with a 2018 agreement with the United States, is part of the Syrian and Russian armed forces' zone of influence. Turkish intelligence has recently began actively spreading rumors among the local population about the alleged possible handover of the city under Turkish control based on an agreement with Moscow or following a military operation by Ankara-controlled Syrian opposition groups.
However, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdul Rahman, citing his own sources, entirely rules out the possibility of such a scenario. In his opinion, the rumors are due to the Russian military's impartial stance on the SDF, blaming the Kurdish units for provoking artillery exchanges around the city of Ayn Issa (northern part of the Raqqa governorate).
Ayn Issa is deemed as the unofficial administrative center of the Syrian Democratic Forces, where the central Kurdish administration agencies are stationed. The city stands on the road connecting Raqqa and the Turkish border town of Tell Abyad, as well as at the intersection of the Al-Hasakah and Aleppo governorates via the M4 Aleppo-Latakia highway.
A US military base and several SDF training centers are located in the vicinity of the city.
According to Rami Abdul Rahman's sources, the Americans made it clear to their NATO ally that their actions in the area pose a real threat not only to the US military and its allies, but also to the production of Syrian oil supplied via Turkey. In case of further artillery attacks on the city and the adjacent areas, the Americans have a right to take more aggressive steps and redirect the Syrian oil transportation destination points.
The Turkish side took note of the American side's warning and pledged contemplating it.