Turkish forces enter outskirts of Syria's Manbij as part of deal with U.S.

Turkish forces enter outskirts of Syria's Manbij as part of deal with U.S.

ANKARA
Turkish forces enter outskirts of Syrias Manbij as part of deal with U.S.

Turkish military vehicles are seen near Manbij, Syria, in this handout picture released by Turkish military on June 18, 2018.

The Turkish army has started patrolling in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, with the military announcing the start of a crucial stage of a deal agreed with the United States. The Turkish army has started patrolling in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, with the military announcing the start of a crucial stage of a deal agreed with the United States.

“We said the terror organizations would be removed from there. They have started to be removed … The patrolling has started,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at a rally in Samsun on June 18.

Earlier this month Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed on the implementation of a road map for the withdrawal of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij, in accordance with a political agreement between Ankara and Washington in early June.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also said Turkish soldiers kicked off their duties in Manbij as of June 18.

“They are conducting work with the U.S. in order to clear terror elements from there,” Yıldırım said.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the army has yet to enter Manbij city but vowed that it would do so in due course. “The YPG will be taken out of Manbij and the Turkish army will continue its efforts for the stability of the region, he said.

In a statement on its Twitter account, the Turkish Armed Forces announced the beginning of the mission with the U.S., saying that patrolling was conducted in the line between the Euphrates Shield area and Manbij.

The joint forces carried out patrols in an area overlooking the U.S. base in Syria’s Dadat town, Anadolu Agency reported. The patrols, in line with the roadmap on Manbij, lasted for around three hours, the agency said.

Turkish military convoys, accompanied by helicopters, have entered the outskirts of Manbij as part of a deal agreed with the United States, Turkish media reported, citing Free Syrian Army sources.

Turkey considers the YPG as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S.

Turkey has long pushed for the YPG’s removal from Manbij, where a sizeable U.S. force has also been deployed since early 2016.

Military-to-military talks followed a deal between Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on June 4 over the Manbij road map.

The road map, which has a set timeframe, suggests the withdrawal of the YPG from the city and the establishment of a new local council to be composed of mainly Arab locals.

The road map, the timeline of which has never been formally announced but which was leaked by diplomatic sources to the media, foresees a three-stage process. The first stage for the first 10 days is about the completion of initial preparations between the military and intelligence officials from the two sides, the second stage from the 11th to the 30th day needs to finalize initial preparations, and the final stage requires the full implementation of the road map within 60 days.

Manbij, Syrian Civil War, Turkey