TUE 19 - 6 - 2018
Jun 6, 2018
The Daily Star
Syrian Kurdish YPG to pull Manbij military advisers
BEIRUT/ANKARA: The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said Tuesday its military advisers would leave Syria’s Manbij, a day after Turkey and the United States reached an agreement for administering the area that includes a longstanding Turkish demand that the YPG withdraw. Under the road map endorsed by Ankara and Washington for Manbij, near Syria’s northern border with Turkey, the two countries would jointly maintain security and stability there.
Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The U.S. sees the YPG as a key ally in the fight against Daesh (ISIS).
In a statement, the YPG said its fighting forces had withdrawn from Manbij in November 2016 shortly after Daesh was defeated there, but military advisers who had stayed to work with the Manbij Military Council would now also withdraw.
The YPG added its forces remained willing to help the people of Manbij “should it be needed.”
In Washington, U.S. officials welcomed the announcement.
“Those advisers are largely there to ensure that if there was a military offensive, they would be there to defend the city,” an American official told reporters.
“Without the threat of a military offensive, the situation is different.”
“We’ll continue to work with all sides to implement the roadmap as it was agreed yesterday by the secretary and foreign minister.”
The officials, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, didn’t give a timeline for the roadmap, saying details still need to be negotiated and implementation will be based on developments on the ground.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday YPG personnel withdrawing from Manbij would be disarmed and sent east of the Euphrates River. There was no immediate comment from the YPG on whether they would agree.Ankara has been angered by U.S. support for the YPG-dominated Syrian Defense Forces in northern Syria and pledged earlier this year to drive the Kurdish militants from Manbij, raising the possibility of confrontation with U.S. forces stationed alongside them. The Pentagon has long feared Manbij could become a flashpoint in Syria, with U.S.-backed forces who cleared the city of Daesh fighters clashing with Turkish forces.
Speaking in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya Tuesday, Cavusoglu said joint preparatory work on the roadmap would begin in 10 days and implementation would be carried out within six months. He said in future the model should also be applied to Syria’s Raqqa, Ain al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish, and other areas controlled by the YPG.
He said he recognized Kurds who are not part of the YPG could remain in these areas and said he aims to return the “population structure” of Manbij to what it was “before the YPG’s arrival.” Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday 200,000 Syrians had returned to northern Syrian regions controlled by Turkish forces.
Separately, a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on the Daesh-held village of Al-Jiza, south of Hassakeh province, early Monday killed 11 civilians, including five children, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday. There was no immediate confirmation by the coalition of the strike, the latest in a series to have reportedly caused civilian casualties in the area in recent weeks.
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