The Latest: US says Syrian town of Manbij to be locally run
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):
The United States says the Syrian town of Manbij will be governed by “locals” who are “mutually agreeable” to the U.S. and Turkey following the withdrawal of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces from the city.
Senior U.S. officials say that a U.S.-Turkey deal for Kurdish-led troops to withdraw from the strategic city includes “estimated timelines” but no hard-and-fast deadlines for steps to be taken. They say implementation will be timed based on events on the ground.
The officials say that the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG will move to the east of the Euphrates River. They say eventually, joint U.S-Turkish patrols will be dispatched along a line of demarcation.
The officials weren’t authorized to be identified by name and requested anonymity.
— Josh Lederman in Washington
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Syrian Kurdish fighters will have to give up their weapons when they retreat from the key northern Syrian town of Manbij, as part of a deal reached with the United States.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Cavusoglu also said that Turkish and U.S. officials would begin working on a plan within the next 10 days and the Syrian Kurdish militia’s withdrawal would be complete within six months.
There was no immediate comment from the Syrian Kurdish fighters on having to surrender arms when leaving Manbij.
A Turkish official says the withdrawal will be according to a U.S. plan, to be completed next week, then Turkey will review the withdrawal before a new council to administer the town is set up. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
—Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey;
Syrian state media say government forces have regained control of areas in the east from the Islamic State group in clashes that left scores dead.
The Syrian Central Military Media says the areas captured by IS over the past two days were mostly on the southern edge of the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. It says many IS fighters were killed or wounded.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said Tuesday that IS fighters killed 45 troops over the past two days along a 100-kilometer (60-mile) front in Deir el-Zour. The Observatory says 26 IS fighters were killed during the same period.
The extremist group still holds parts of Deir el-Zour. It is fighting government forces on the western side of the Euphrates River and U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters on the eastern side.
A Russian force that deployed on Syria’s border with Lebanon has reportedly withdrawn and been replaced by Syrian troops.
The Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV, which has reporters throughout Syria, says the Russian force withdrew Tuesday from the border area on the outskirts of the town of Qusair, a stronghold of the Lebanese Hezbollah group. Russia and the Iran-backed Hezbollah are both fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Al-Mayadeen and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian troops had deployed to the area on Monday. Neither provided details as to why they left.
The rare deployment of Russian forces near the border came amid repeated Israeli warnings about Iran’s growing military presence in Syria. Israel is widely believed to have been behind an airstrike on Qusair last month that killed and wounded Hezbollah fighters.
A Syrian Kurdish militia says it’s pulling out of the key northern Syrian town, potentially easing a serious rift between the United States and Turkey.
The People’s Protection Units, known by their Kurdish acronym YPG, said in a statement on Tuesday that its advisers had completed their mission to train the local forces, the Manbij Military Council, to defend the town of Manbij.
The development follows an announcement Monday from Turkey, saying it had reached an agreement with the U.S. over the future of the town.
Both the YPG and the Manbij Military Council are backed by the U.S., straining Washington-Ankara relations.
Ankara considers the YPG a terror group tied to a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey and has demanded the Kurdish fighters leave Manbij for over a year.