Turkey, US to oversee withdrawal of Kurds from Manbij: Cavusoglu
Turkey and the United States are set to oversee the withdrawal of Kurdish militants from the northern Syria city of Manbij, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says.
Turkey began attacking the militants, known as Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), in the nearby region of Afrin on January 19 after the US announced plans to set up a 30,000-strong force with their help close to the Turkish border in Syria.
Later, Ankara threatened to move as far as Manbij where American forces are also present.
Cavusoglu said Tuesday that Turkey and the United States would decide on a plan for the process during talks scheduled for March 19, but said Turkish forces would carry out a military operation if the discussions fail.
He also said Ankara would monitor the return of weapons given to the YPG by the United States.
The US's arms and training support for the Kurds, whom Turkey ties to anti-Ankara separatists, has long constituted a bone of contention between the two sides.
During a visit to Ankara by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in mid-February, the two sides agreed to work together in their occupation of Syria. “We will work together... we have good mechanisms on how we can achieve this, there is a lot of work to be done,” Tillerson said back then, without elaborating.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has harshly denounced the US invasion and also slammed the Turkish incursion as an act of aggression.
Last month, Syrian troops were dispatched to Afrin after its authorities demanded Damascus’s assistance in the face of the Turkish forces.
Earlier on Tuesday, Afrin-based Kurds accused Turkey of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against its residents.
They, however, have rejected Ankara’s claim that it has encircled the enclave.