ANKARA: Turkey and the United States will oversee the withdrawal of Syrian Kurdish YPG militants from northern Syria’s Manbij town, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted by NTV and other local media as saying on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters on his flight to Moscow, Cavusoglu
said Turkey and the United States will decide on a plan for
securing Manbij during talks on March 19, but said Turkish
forces would carry out a military operation if those failed.
Cavusoglu also said Turkey had not made any demands from the
Syrian government regarding Manbij, and added Ankara would
monitor the return of weapons given to the YPG by the United
States, an issue that has strained ties between the NATO allies.
Turkey’s military and its rebel allies have encircled the northern Syrian town of Afrin, the Turkish armed forces said on Tuesday, marking as substantial advance in Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish fighters across its southern border.
Turkey launched its operation, dubbed “Olive Branch”, in
northern Syria nearly two months ago to sweep the Syrian Kurdish
YPG from the Turkish border. Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist
group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party
The forces encircled Afrin town and also captured “areas of
critical importance” in the region as of Monday, the Turkish
military said in a statement.
On Monday, a Turkish government spokesperson said the armed forces had gained control of more than half the area and vowed
to clear the Afrin town of militants.
President Tayyip Erdogan last week said Turkish forces had
besieged the Afrin town and were nearing its town centre, but a
YPG spokesperson later denied this, saying the regions claimed to
be under Turkish control were still battlegrounds.
Since the start of its offensive, Turkey has also threatened
to push its military operations to Manbij, further east, to
sweep Syrian Kurdish fighters from the length of its borders.
Turkey’s repeated threats to push to Manbij have caused
complications with NATO ally the United States, which has its
troops deployed in the area and is backing the YPG in the fight
against Islamic State, a move that has infuriated Ankara.