Time to rid Manbij of YPG, says Turkish FM
GENEVA / PARIS
Now is the time to completely clear the northern Syrian region of Manbij of Syrian Kurdish YPG militants and leave the city to civilians, Turkey’s foreign minister said has said as Turkish and U.S. troops start training together to carry out joint patrols soon in the region.
“There is a slight delay in the schedule, but the separate coordinated [Turkish and US] patrols in the Manbij region conducted up to now were important,” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Geneva after a meeting on “Strategic Dialogue in the Western Balkans” at the World Economic Forum (WEF).
“Now is time to take completely take the YPG out of Manbij and leave the region to the locals, both in terms of administration and security,” he added.
Çavuşoğlu referred to the patrols conducted by Turkish and U.S. troops in Manbij as part of a deal to rid the region of the YPG, considered by Ankara an offshoot of the illegal PKK, hence a terrorist group.
He also said the deal should be implemented fully by the U.S., adding that despite delays caused by the U.S. side, the deal is still working.
As agreed by the two NATO allies in June, Turkish and U.S. forces are currently carrying out patrols in Manbij, but those are independent of each other. Training is the last step before the two countries carry out joint patrols.
“The training now is under way and we’ll just have to see how that goes,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told a small group of reporters traveling with him to Paris on Oct. 1.
“We have every reason to believe the joint patrols will be coming on time, when the training syllabus is complete so that we do it right,” Mattis added.
He said the United States was currently working with trainers and it would be followed by a few weeks of training with Turkish troops before the joint patrols started.
The training will take place in Turkey.
Turkey has been infuriated with Washington’s support for the YPG and prior to the June agreement it had threatened to push on with a ground offensive against the YPG in Manbij despite the presence of U.S. troops there.
Mattis said he would speak about the situation in Syria and militancy in Africa while in Paris, where he is expected to meet his French counterpart and President Emmanuel Macron.
Turkey and Russia agreed in mid-September to enforce a new demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib province from which rebels will be required to withdraw.
Before the deal and when a Syrian government offensive on Idlib seemed imminent, France had said that it was prepared to carry out strikes on Syrian targets if chemical weapons were used.