Middle East

Kurdish YPG to withdraw from Syria’s Manbij after Turkey-US pact

The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Tuesday its military advisers would leave Syria's Manbij, a day after Turkey and the United States said they had agreed a plan for the northern area that included a YPG withdrawal.

The US-backed militia said in a statement that its forces withdrew from Manbij in November 2016, but the military advisors had remained to work with the Manbij Military Council.

The aim is the clearing of Manbij of all terror organisations and the permanent instatement of safety

– Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister

However, the group said its forces would "heed the call when necessary to offer support and help to the people of Manbij should it be needed".

Ankara considers the YPG a "terrorist" organisation closely linked to the Kurdish PKK inside Turkey, and has threatened to attack Manbij if it did not withdraw.

The YPG has fought alongside US forces to clear large areas of Syria of Islamic State fighters, including last year's liberation of the IS "capital", Raqqa.

Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said on Tuesday that YPG fighters would be stripped of their weapons when withdrawing.

He said joint work on the US-Turkey plan, which he endorsed by his US counterpart Mike Pompeo in Washington on Monday, would begin in 10 days and be carried out within six months.

Cavusoglu said in future the model should also be applied to Raqqa, Kobane and other areas controlled by the YPG.

The US did not promise to declare the YPG a terrorist organisation, Cavusoglu said. He also said that Turkey's efforts in Manbij with the US were not an alternative to working with Russia in Syria.

Washington has feared that Manbij could become a flashpoint in Syria, with US-backed forces who cleared the city of Islamic State fighters clashing with Turkish forces.

That would have put the US in the unenviable position of either fighting a NATO ally or abandoning its proxy forces in Syria.

The US-Turkey plan did not spell out specifically how the withdrawal would take place.

However, Cavusoglu said on Monday: "The aim is the clearing of Manbij of all terror organisations and the permanent instatement of safety and stability.

"In the first step, the determination of parameters for common plans for the removal of YPG-PYD from Manbij – you can also call it PKK – will be determined."

Original Article


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