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Kurdish militias reject Turkish military presence in Manbij

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) head a convoy of US military vehicles in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017 [Rodi Said / Reuters]
Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) head a convoy of US military vehicles in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017 [Rodi Said / Reuters]

Kurdish militias in the Syrian city of Manbij have rejected a joint US-Turkish roadmap that would see Turkish soldiers responsible for administering the area.

“We will not accept that,” spokesman for the Manbij Military Council, which is allied with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, told Reuters.

Spokesman Sharfan Darwish said the council had not yet been officially informed of the mechanisms of a Turkey-US roadmap for Manbij announced on Monday, but said the council was capable of preserving the security and borders of the town against any external threats.

“We are awaiting high-level visits by coalition officials to inform us of the details, and for consultations and discussions,” Darwish added.

The SDF has secured swathes of land in the north of Syria, causing heightened tensions with neighbouring Turkey. Primarily made up of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), an offshoot of the designated terror organisation the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Washington has backed the Kurdish militias in the fight against Daesh.

Read: Syria civilians protest against US-backed Kurdish forces

The YPG has also received increased backing from Europe; French forces have established six artillery batteries in the north of the country and along the Syria-Iraq border since their arrival last month.

Since January, Turkey has been undertaking an air and ground offensive in Syria as part of “Operation Olive Branch” against the YPG. After securing Afrin in March, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed a desire to move towards Manbij where the US has 2,000 special forces troops, straining relations further.

However, earlier this week, an agreement was finally reached during a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, under which the militants would leave the area.

On Tuesday YPG military advisers confirmed the move, and yesterday the Manbij Military Council said this would occur “in the coming days”.

Read: Turkey will to go elsewhere if US won’t sell it F-35 jets

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