By Orhan Coskun and Yara Bayoumy
ANKARA - Turkey has proposed to the United States that Kurdish YPG fighters withdraw to east of the Euphrates river in Syria and that Turkish and U.S. troops be stationed together in the country’s Manbij area, a Turkish official said on Friday.
The proposal could mark a breakthrough in efforts to overcome the NATO allies’ stark differences over Syria policy. Relations have recently neared a breaking point over U.S. support for the YPG militia, seen as terrorists by Turkey.
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 U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his two-day visit to Ankara.
The United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Turkish proposal.
Tillerson arrived in Turkey on Thursday for two days of what officials have said would likely be uncomfortable discussions between the allies. He and President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday had a “productive and open” discussion on improving ties, a U.S. State Department spokesman traveling 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 Kurdish 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 (60 miles) east of the Afrin region. U.S. troops are already stationed near Manbij.