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Turkish forces begin patrols in Syria's Manbij

Ankara says 'independent patrol' missions by Turkish and US forces under way, part of roadmap agreed by both countries.

Turkish forces

The Turkish army has said its forces have begun patrols along the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, in cooperation with US soldiers in the area.

The announcement on Monday came after Turkish and US military officials agreed earlier this month to a roadmap for the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters considered "terrorists" by Ankara from the city.

The Turkish army announced on Monday the launch of the operation between Manbij and an area it controls after one of its two cross-border military campaigns along with Syrian rebels in the past two years.

"As per the Manbij Roadmap and Safety Principles previously agreed upon, independent patrol activities by soldiers of Turkish Armed Forces and US Armed Forces have begun on the line between (the Turkish-controlled) area and Manbij," Turkey's armed forces said on Twitter.

Addressing supporters in an election rally in the Black Sea province of Samsun, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We had told that terror organisations will leave Manbij. 

"We had also talked about patrol missions in Manbij," he added, ahead of the country's key presidential and parliamentary polls on Sunday.

US-Turkey roadmap

Manbij was formerly controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group before being seized by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in 2016, a US-backed umbrella group dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

However, Turkey considers the YPG to have ties to the outlawed Kudistan Workers' Party (PKK) - Ankara views both as "terrorist" organisations.

Turkey was infuriated by US support for the Kurdish fighters and threatened to push its offensive in the Afrin region of northern Syria further east to Manbij, risking a confrontation with American troops stationed there.

The issue of Manbij had become a major flashpoint between the two NATO allies.

But on June 4, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo endorsed a roadmap for the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from Manbij and agreed to jointly secure the city.

A day later, the YPG, which controls large areas in northern Syria on the borders with Turkey, announced that it had withdrawn its military advisers from Manbij.

The Turkish foreign minister also said that Turkish troops would also make their way to Manbij's city centre.

"We said we would act together with the US plans were made," the Daily Sabah reported Cavusoglu as saying. "[Turkish soldiers] will also enter Manbij, which will be cleared from terrorists in a short period of time."

"Our stage goal is to stabilise the areas under the YPG control," he said.


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