By Merve Aydogan
Visiting the U.S. secretary of state in Washington early next month, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Thursday that the two will discuss a roadmap for northern Manbij, Syria.
Speaking to Turkish broadcaster TRT, Mevlut Cavusoglu said the working groups established between Turkey and the U.S. are continuing.
On Manbij, Cavusoglu said: "We had a preliminary agreement on this, but due to the change in secretary of state in the U.S. the approval didn’t happen."
Mike Pompeo recently succeeded Rex Tillerson as the top U.S. diplomat.
Manbij has caused friction in Turkish-U.S. ties, with Turkey rejecting the U.S. working with the terrorist YPG/PKK, demanding the group’s withdrawal.
Cavusoglu expressed willingness to approve the preliminary agreement and implement the Manbij roadmap following the June 4 Washington meeting, saying: "Withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij is especially important here. However, the YPG's withdrawal from Manbij alone is not enough. The stabilization of all regions under YPG control is also important."
"Who will secure and administer these regions? Of course, in the future, when a political solution [in Syria] is possible, these must be integrated to the central administration," he explained.
Cavusoglu also said an agreement on Manbij is not only important for relations between Turkey and the US but also the future of Syria.
He also reasserted the necessity of revitalizing the Geneva Process, stating that the Bashar Assad regime "does not want to meet with the opposition or anyone else regarding any matter."
US trial of Turkish banker
Turning to Wednesday’s prison sentencing in the U.S. of former Halkbank Deputy CEO Mehmet Hakan Atilla, Cavusoglu said: "A FETO-motivated case was opened in New York via an indictment prepared by FETO,” referring to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization, which in July 2016 organized a quickly defeated coup bid in Turkey.
“Why did the jury have a hard time reaching a decision? Who pressured them? Because there is no evidence... [The case] is completely politically motivated."
In January a New York jury found Hakan Atilla, a former deputy CEO of Turkey's public lender Halkbank, guilty on five counts related to conspiracy and bank fraud -- including alleged Iran sanctions violations -- but acquitted him of a money laundering charge.
On Wednesday Atilla was sentenced to 32 months in prison, minus time served.
Turkey has criticized the conviction as a political conspiracy lacking any real evidence and pushed by members and sympathizers of FETO.
The July 15, 2016 FETO-organized coup bid left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara accuses FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary, as well as having a large network of influence and intimidation abroad.
Cavusoglu said the U.S.’ "patronizing attitude" has led to a "serious loss of prestige" on the international stage.
Friday OIC meeting on Palestine
On Israeli violence against peaceful Palestinian protests in Gaza, killing dozens, Cavusoglu said: "The UN Human Rights Council will convene in Geneva tomorrow and a decision to conduct an independent investigation will come out of the meeting. Israel must face justice in accordance with the examinations and reports conducted by an independent commission regarding crimes against humanity."
Cavusoglu also stressed tomorrow’s meeting in Istanbul of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss the situation.
"The next step is to bring this issue to the UN Security Council," he added.
"Yesterday I spoke with the foreign minister of South Africa and we are to cooperate not only in the African Union but also at the UN... But [just] making decisions is no longer important, accountability is important. This must be taken to the International Criminal Court and only Palestine can take it there, a third country can’t do this."
On Monday at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred and thousands more injured by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Thousands of Palestinians had gathered on the Gaza Strip’s eastern border to take part in protests marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel -- the Nakba ("Catastrophe") -- and protest the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Since the Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by cross-border Israeli army gunfire.
Last week, the Israeli government claimed the ongoing border protests constitute a “state of war” in which international humanitarian law does not apply.