ADDS PENTAGON STATEMENT
By Sarp Ozer
ANKARA (AA) – Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his U.S. counterpart James Mattis spoke over the phone, said a Turkish ministry source on Friday.
Akar and Mattis exchanged views on bilateral defense relations, situation in Syria and the fight against terrorism, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.
In a statement, Eric Pahon, a spokesman for Pentagon, said the two men agreed that the combined patrols between the U.S. and Turkish military forces northwest of Manbij, Syria "were an important step toward de-escalating tensions along the border and maintaining security and stability in the region".
Turkish and American troops on Thursday began their first round of joint patrols in Manbij, as part of a deal to rid the area of the YPG/PKK terrorist group.
Since June 18, the Turkish Armed Forces have carried out 68 individual patrols in Manbij.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the death of 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.
*Servet Gunerigok in Washington contributed to the story