Ankara: Turkey and the United States have reached an agreement on a plan for the withdrawal of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from Syria’s Manbij, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said on Wednesday.
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Under the terms of the three-step plan, which will become finalised during a visit by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Washington on June 4, the YPG will withdraw from Manbij 30 days after the deal is signed, Anadolu said.
Turkish and US. military forces will start joint supervision in Manbij 45 days after the agreement is signed and a local administration will be formed 60 days after June 4, Anadolu said.
However, the claim was dismissed on Thursday by a Manbij local official.
“A Turkish assertion that US. and Turkish forces will temporarily control northern Syria’s Manbij region is “premature (and) lacks credibility”, Sharfan Darwish, spokesman for the Manbij Military Council said.
Manbij has long been seen as a potential flashpoint.
The Syrian government and its allies, Kurdish-led militia, Syrian rebel groups, Turkey, and the United States all have a military presence in northern Syria.
Cavusoglu told Turkish broadcaster AHaber that an understanding had been reached with Washington and a timetable for enacting the plans could be decided during talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo next week.
The Manbij Military Council is affiliated with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which control large parts of northern Syria having pushed Daesh militants out of swathes of the country.
“The Turkish statements are a way of exerting pressure and creating confusion in Manbij, impacting its stability,” Darwish said, adding that no agreement had yet been reached between Turkey and the United States on the future of Manbij.
The SDF is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia which Ankara regards as an extension of the PKK group, which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey for decades.
Turkey is angry with the United States, its NATO ally, for backing the YPG in Syria.
Turkey has carried out two military incursions into northern Syria aimed partly at curbing the YPG’s presence, and has repeatedly threatened to send troops to Manbij, where it says the group is also based.
It regards the Manbij Military Council as indistinguishable from the YPG, although the two groups say they are separate.
“The (YPG) withdrew fully after the liberation of Manbij and Turkey knows that there is no YPG in Manbij, and the (US-backed anti-Daesh) coalition knows,” Darwish said.