Syria claims it has entered key town as Erdoğan warns of 'psychological action'
This file photo shows Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk on the rubble of damaged shops and buildings in the city of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, The SDF is dominated by the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo
Syria’s military announced Dec. 28 it has taken control of the flash-point northern town of Manbij, where Turkey has threatened an offensive.
The announcement was quickly welcomed by the Kremlin, whose spokesman Dmitry Peskov called it a "positive step" that could help stabilize the situation.
Turkey, on the other hand, questioned Syria's motive with the announcement.
"We know that the Syrian regime is conducting a psychological action. There is no concrete, serious development [in Manbij] at the moment," President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters in Istanbul, while also stressing that Turkey supports Syria's territorial integrity.
Turkey will have nothing left to do in Manbij once the YPG leaves the area, Erdoğan added. "Our goal is to teach this terror group a lesson and we're determined to make it happen," he said.
There was no immediate comment from the U.S., whose troops have been patrolling the town and the tense front line between Manbij and adjacent towns where Turkey-backed fighters were based.
Turkey, which views the YPG as a terrorist group, had been threatening a military operation against Manbij. Turkey and its allied fighters have been amassing troops around Manbij in recent days.
The threats triggered the U.S. announcement it would withdraw troops from Syria. A timetable for the withdrawal has not yet been made public.
The Syrian military declaration came shortly after the YPG invited the government to seize control of Manbij to prevent a Turkish attack. The development signals the two sides have agreed to the new arrangement. The Syrian military said it raised the state flag in Manbij.
The Syrian military said it was responding to calls from residents of Manbij and promised safety for all living there.
Syria’s entry into Manbij comes a day before Moscow is to host top Turkish officials to discuss the crisis in Syria after the United States announced its withdrawal.
Peskov has said the latest developments in Manbij would be discussed on Dec. 29 during the visit to "clarify" the situation and "synchronise actions" between Russia and Turkey.