Russian Federation hails Syrian army entry in key northern city

Hugh Fox
December 28, 2018

Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG forces to be part of a terrorist group.

Manbij is a strategically important town in northern Syria that until today was under the control of US-backed Kurdish forces.

The Syrian army entered the town of Manbij on Friday after the main Syrian Kurdish militia invited the government to seize control of it to prevent an attack from Turkey.

USA soldiers have been working closely with Kurdish forces who form part of an alliance - the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - in the battle against IS.

The request by the US-backed Kurds follows the shock announcement that all USA troops are to withdraw from Syria.

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They will be hoping that the presence of the Syrian government army - which is backed by Russian Federation and Iran - will deter Turkey from launching an attack.

US President Donald Trump's abrupt decision last week to pull out about 2,000 US troops, whose presence has deterred Turkey, has alarmed the SDF, which controls much of northern and eastern Syria.

But this policy has infuriated Turkey, which is battling the militia in the nearby city of Afrin.

Tensions in the region have risen in recent weeks, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch a new offensive against the Kurds. The French, after all, knew their bases were vulnerable without the U.S., and similarly must've assumed Turkey knew that as well. He said Turkey's military was continuing its preparations.

The threats triggered the USA announcement of withdrawing troops from Syria. After the Syrian announcement on Friday, the Turkish defence ministry said the YPG "has no right or power to make a statement on behalf of the local people and invite any other elements" to the area.

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The army was quoted as saying it "guarantees full security for all Syrian citizens and others present" in Manbij.

The Syrian government has said it welcomes the Kurdish group returning under its authority.

"This is a positive trend", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. But sources from Manbij told TRT World the city is calm and that regime forces have not entered.

Moscow will early next year host the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey to discuss the Syrian conflict, Russia's deputy foreign minister said Friday, after the United States announced it was withdrawing troops from the country. The talks will allow the two sides to "bring complete clarity and synchronise actions" going forward, Mr Peskov said.

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