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Ankara Welcomes the Withdrawal of Kurdish Fighters From Manbij | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkey welcomed the withdrawal of a large number of fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the northern Syrian town of Manbij to the east of the Euphrates River. Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces confirmed that it had withdrawn from the Manbij countryside towards the east bank of the Euphrates River “a month ago”, and said that the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister’s announcement about the withdrawal was “more political than military”. It also said that Turkey “refused to acknowledge our withdrawal to the east bank of the Euphrates in the past, but confirms it today”.

In a statement that he made after a cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister and Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus told reporters that “This is a step that is welcomed by Turkey”.

However, an adviser to the SDF general command Naser Haj Mansour told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Nothing new is going on on the ground in the countryside of eastern Aleppo, especially in Manbij”. He stressed that the Syrian Democratic Forces withdrew from Manbij a month ago and that they announced that. He added that “Turkey questioned this before, but confirmed today (yesterday) what we told them a month ago.”

Ankara had demanded that YPG fighters move to the east of the Euphrates River, and it also asked Washington to convince them to take this step. This is because Ankara considers them as an extension of the PKK which it sees as a terrorist organisation.

Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that this step will somewhat calm down the tension between Ankara and Washington over America’s recent support for the troops and the fact that it considers them as an important ally in the war on ISIS.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that Ankara is thinking about moving a further 45 kilometres into northern Syria. He said: “Initially, we [Turkey] may move at least 45 kilometres down and we must move further down in order to seal off the Manbij region. Then, a 5,000 kilometre de facto safe zone can be established.”