Defense Minister Akar reveals Turkish position on Idlib, Manbij after call with Russian counterpart

Defense Minister Akar reveals Turkish position on Idlib, Manbij after call with Russian counterpart

ANKARA

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar

Ankara is continuing its efforts to sustain cease-fire in Syria’s Idlib province and a joint roadmap with the U.S. over Manbij city is “slowly” progressing, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said.

“Regarding Manbij, there is progress, although a slow one. We constantly remind our partners that the YPG/PKK must leave the region,” Akar said in a speech at a military promotion ceremony in Ankara on Aug. 30 following a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.

“We are also striving to maintain the security of some 4 million locals, to continue relief efforts and to stop attacks to keep the cease-fire in Idlib,” he added.

“We are the only state fighting Daesh face-to-face on ground. While others have been in this fight from air and by other means, our friends fought some 3,000 ISIL members, the most radical ones, in hand-to-hand combat and neutralized them,” Akar added.

The Manbij roadmap was announced after a June 4 meeting in Washington between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo.

The deal focuses on the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij, which Turkey deems to be an offshoot of the illegal PKK. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the U.S. and the European Union.

The first patrols by Turkish and U.S. troops in the region began on June 18 and joint patrols are expected to start soon.

In recent days, Turkey has also intensified contacts with Russia and Iran amid escalating tension over an impending military operation by the Syrian army into the rebel-held Idlib province of the war-torn country.

The U.N. worries that the offensive could force 2.5 million people toward the Turkish border.

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