Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

Russia begins patrols outside flashpoint city in northern Syria

The patrols began as Turkey called on the US to speed-up the withdrawl of Kurdish forces from Manbij

 Russian military police officer in the citadel of Aleppo. AFP
 Russian military police officer in the citadel of Aleppo. AFP

Russian military police on Monday started patrolling the outskirts of the flashpoint city of Manbij after Turkish officials called on the US to accelerate the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from the region.

Zvezda, a TV network run by the Russian Ministry of Defence, said that military police are organizing patrols along a five-kilometre zone in the eastern countryside of Aleppo province, near Manbij.

It said that Russian military police are patrolling a buffer zone separating government forces in Manbij from “militants” stationed outside the city.

It was not immediately clear which militants Zvezda was referring to, but Turkish-backed rebel forces are stationed in parts of eastern Aleppo, near Manbij.

The route will be changed every day for “safety reasons,” Zvezda said.

Yusup Mamatov, a spokesperson for Russian military police, also confirmed the deployment.

"Today we started patrolling the security zone near the city of Manbij and its surroundings. The task is to ensure safety within the zone of responsibility, to control the positions and movement of armed groups," he was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.

Russian servicemen will also follow-up on reports from local residents regarding weapons caches and unexploded ordnances found in the city, Mr Mamatov said, according to TASS.

Kurdish fighters, fearing a Turkish military assault, invited regime forces to Manbij late last month after US President Donald Trump's shock announcement of a full American withdrawal from Syria.

Mr Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to attack the city which he believes is a stronghold for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – A Kurdish armed group that forms the backbone of a US-backed alliance fighting ISIS in Syria.

In a bid to avoid any clashes, Ankara and Washington agreed to a "roadmap" for Manbij in June which included YPG forces withdrawing from the city and joint US-Turkish patrols.

However, Ankara maintains that YPG forces are still present in the city – a claim that the YPG itself has denied.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar briefed Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a meeting in Ankara on Tuesday on the need for US forces to accelerate a YPG exit from Manbij, the Turkish Defence Ministry said in a statement.

“[Mr] Akar has stressed the importance of speeding up the implementation of the Manbij road map and of immediate withdrawal of the YPG terrorists from the region,” the statement read.

“He noted that Turkey was determined to take all necessary measures to ensure its border security and regional stability.”

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