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Trump, Erdogan discuss Syria in phone call: Turkish presidency

03 November, 2018, 04:53 | Author: Ted Wilson
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to indirectly confirm reports that the Turkish military fired artillery shells at YPG positions in northern Syria on Sunday

"The terror group is digging trenches in Manbij as they have done in Afrin, despite promises made by the U.S. about PKK/PYD/YPG's withdrawal from Manbij", Akar told lawmakers in a planning and budget committee meeting.

Four YPG militia in Syria's Ayn Al-Arab region, or Kobani, were killed by the Turkish army on Wednesday afternoon, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was ready to launch a new offensive against the YPG, reflecting growing concern in Ankara over the group's entrenched presence across the border.

"The joint patrols of Turkish and USA troops on which we have made plans and completed training and which we said would start, began at 1353GMT", Hulusi Akar said at the Turkish Parliament.

The Turkish government has always been seeking the YPG withdrawal from Manbij over security concerns, as it regards the YPG as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), blacklisted by Ankara as a terrorist organization.

Kurdish news agency Hawar News reported that the joint patrols took place 19 kilometers from the city with three USA and three Turkish vehicles, starting from the village of Arab Hassan.

The US State Department on Wednesday expressed "great concern" over Turkey's shelling of Kurdish forces.

"We have reached a certain point in the process for the supplying of S-400 systems from the Russian Federation in order to meet our urgent air defense system needs as soon as possible", he said.

The US-led coalition against IS said on Thursday it was working to "de-escalate" fighting between Turkey and the Kurdish militia.

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Manbij was captured from IS by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group dominated by the YPG. The campaign against ISIS "is not over and that fight remains hard", he said.

The Turkish leader noted that his country is finished preparing for operations in Syrian Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria, located east of the Euphrates River. "Our forces are consolidating their positions defensively", he said.

The Britain-based watchdog group said the SDF also sent reinforcement to the frontline as part of the preparations for another round of battles to dislodge IS from its last pocket in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zour. It also envisions Kurdish YPG forces withdrawing from the town to the east of the Euphrates.

In a sign that neither side wants the situation to escalate, Turkish and USA forces started joint patrols in rural areas of the northwestern Syrian town of Manbij, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.

A convoy of about 30 troops patrolled northwest of Manbij along the demarcation line dividing Turkish-controlled territory from the area controlled by the USA -backed Manbij Military Council, defense officials told VOA.

In an effort to alleviate the situation, the US agreed to jointly control Manbij with Turkish forces, and Kurdish forces agreed to withdraw. The statement was released not long after it was announced that Turkish and American troops had begun conducting joint patrols in the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

The strategic town lies west of the Euphrates and was taken by SDF forces from the Islamic State in 2016.

"The joint patrols of Turkish and USA troops - on which we have made plans and completed training and which we said would start - began at 3.53 p.m. local time [1353GMT]", Hulusi Akar said to the Turkish Parliament.

Ankara has already backed Syrian rebels to push the Kurdish forces out of the northern enclave of Afrin earlier this year.


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