YPG confirms withdrawal from Syria's Manbij after Turkey-US deal

The move, long sought by Turkey, comes after top diplomats discussed the armed group's Syrian presence in Washington DC.

    Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) run across a street in Raqqa, Syria, July 3, 2017. Goran Tomasevic: 'They were members of Kurdish YPG militia. They were running across the street because ISIS fighters' positions were nearby. I shot the picture on the last day of my assignment. I was lucky to have that picture as YPG fighters were giving very restricted access to media.' REUTERS/ Goran Tomasevic [Reuters]
    Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) run across a street in Raqqa, Syria, July 3, 2017. Goran Tomasevic: 'They were members of Kurdish YPG militia. They were running across the street because ISIS fighters' positions were nearby. I shot the picture on the last day of my assignment. I was lucky to have that picture as YPG fighters were giving very restricted access to media.' REUTERS/ Goran Tomasevic [Reuters]

    The Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) said its military advisers would leave the town of Manbij a day after Turkey and the United States said they reached an agreement on the armed group's withdrawal.

    In a statement on Tuesday, the YPG said its fighters withdrew from Manbij in November 2016, but military advisers had remained to work with the Manbij Military Council.

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    "We affirm that our forces will heed the call when necessary to offer support and help to the people of Manbij should it be needed," the statement said.

    Turkey was infuriated by US support for the Kurdish fighters and threatened to push its offensive in the Afrin region of northern Syria further east to Manbij, risking a confrontation with American troops stationed there.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who discussed Manbij with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, said YPG personnel withdrawing from Manbij would be disarmed.

    At Cavusoglu's talks with Pompeo in Washington, DC, the NATO allies agreed on a "roadmap" for Manbij, without spelling out explicitly what steps they would take.

    Speaking in Turkey's southern province of Antalya on Tuesday, Cavusoglu said joint work on the plan would begin in 10 days and be complete in six months. He said the model should also be applied to Syria's Raqqa, Kobane, and other areas controlled by YPG.

    "In the first phase, terrorist YPG will withdraw from Manbij. They will disarm as they withdraw. They will move to the east of the Euphrates. However, that does not mean we will accept that they stay there," Cavusoglu said.

    Turkey and the US will jointly provide security in Manbij, he added.

    Strained relations

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    Manbij is a potential flashpoint in Syria's seven-year war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

    The Syrian government, Kurdish fighters, Syrian rebel groups, Turkey, and the US all have a military presence in the north of the country.

    YPG's pullout, long sought by Turkey, comes at a time of strained bilateral ties over wider Syria policy, as well as Washington's decision in December to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

    Rocky relations also include the sentencing in New York in May of a former Turkish state bank executive to 32 months in prison for taking part in an Iran sanctions-busting scheme, a case Turkey called a political attack.

    Turkey has also caused unease in Washington with its decision to buy S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia and drew criticism over its detention of a US Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, on "terrorism" charges. The American has denied any wrongdoing.

    Turkey FM: Kurdish YPG in Afrin are a security threat

    Talk to Al Jazeera

    Turkey FM: Kurdish YPG in Afrin are a security threat

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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