Top Russian, US and Turkish officials meet to defuse tensions over Syria’s Manbij

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Kurdish members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are seen in a village near Tishreen Dam in northeastern Aleppo after liberating the area from ISIS. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

On Tuesday, top military officials from Russia, Turkey, and the United States met in the town of Antalya to defuse tensions in Manbij, a Syrian city which has been repeatedly threatened by Turkish-led rebels.

Both the US-led coalition and the Russian Federation deployed troops in Manbij to deter Turkish aggression against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who also control the surrounding subdistricts.

The military conference came after Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim suggested that the Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation might give up on conquering Manbij city.

“Without coordination with the US and Russia in Manbij, there is no point in continuing operations,” he said on Monday, adding that Russian and US flags were already flying over Manbij.

Nawaf Xelil, a Kurdish analyst and former official from the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told ARA News that the meeting should be understood in the context of Turkey’s difficulties in al-Bab, where they and their allies were bogged down for months.

“In my opinion, the Americans and Russians will not allow Turkey [to assault Manbij], because all Syriacs, Arabs and Kurds are united in the Syrian Democratic Forces,” he reasoned. “Turkey knows the United States will not change its plans.”

Xelil added that “the SDF are now on the banks of the Euphrates River […] 8 kilometers from Raqqa, and they have cut the roads between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor,” the Islamic State’s (ISIS) largest urban strongholds.

In contrast, the Kurdish analyst believed that Turkey had been shown to be in ineffective, placing itself “in a bad situation, with bad relations with its neighbors and the West.”

“Turkey is in a weak position, it has bad relations with Iraq, Syria, Iran, Germany, and now also Holland is telling Turkey to not make propaganda there [for the April presidential referendum],” he said.

Xelil believes that while Turkey’s government has been burning bridges the Kurds have been building their international relations, proving themselves to be consistent, reliable and unremitting in the fight against terrorism.

Nicholas Heras, a Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, told ARA News that Syria is now in a new stage, where powerful international actors are dividing the spoils from the war against ISIS.

“The Syrian civil war has now entered a stage where powerful state actors are discussing how to divide up the territorial spoils of the counter-ISIS war,” he reasoned. “The ‘creeping incrementalism’ of the Obama administration’s counter-ISIS strategy, which led to the creation of the SDF, will likely end with an American military mandate over areas of Syria conquered from ISIS.”

“Turkey wants to ensure those areas do not fall under the dominion of the Kurds, and Russia wants the land transferred back to Assad when the American campaign against ISIS is done,” Heras continued.

Heras concluded by telling ARA News that “the US is just now, under President Trump, understanding the leverage it has over the future of Syria through the tremendous gains made by the American counter-ISIS campaign.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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