The Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Monday suggested that the Turkey-led Euphrates Shield operation in Syria could give up on Manbij city due to Russian and US support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“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 are flying over Manbij at the moment.
Instead, the Turkish PM offered establishing a joint mechanism with the US and Russia, to remove the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) –a leading SDF faction– from the area, and that in that case the area could be returned to its civilian population similar to the Syrian towns of al-Bab, al-Rai, Dabiq, and Jarabulus.
Previously, the Turkish PM said he didn’t mind a Syrian regime presence in Manbij, as long as the YPG is not in the area. “We don’t want a YPG presence there,” he said.
Despite of the presence of Russian and US flags, clashes continued between the SDF-linked Manbij Military Council (MMC) and the Turkey-backed rebels on Monday afternoon.
Four Turkish soldiers were injured in shelling by the MMC, who were transported to hospitals in Kilis and Gaziantep.
Aaron Stein, a senior resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, told ARA News: “Turkey has rightly realized that the two most powerful combatants in Syria, Russia and the United States, share an interest in protecting Manbij from Euphrates Shield.”
“Turkey could choose to escalate, although, for now, it seems to be rethinking its next move. Turkey could settle for the status quo, take action around Tel Rifaat, or surprise us all and go for [Kurdish-held cities of] Kobane or Tel Abyad. They still have a lot of cards to play,” Stein said.
Air Force Col John L. Dorrian, Spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), said the US-led coalition moved its forces to Manbij to deter aggression and to ensure there is no YPG presence.
“[The coalition] has been active in and around Manbij since Summer of 2016, when the city was liberated from Daesh [ISIS],” he said.
The US-led coalition has also “increased force presence in, around Manbij to deter hostile acts, enhance governance & ensure there’s no persistent YPG presence,” according to Colonel Dorrian.
Furthermore, Russian aid convoys arrived in Manbij after a deal between the MMC and the Russian government.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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