By Kubra Chohan, Cansu Dikme, Sibel Ugurlu and Sena Guler
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday confirmed Turkish Armed Forces in cooperation with U.S. troops had begun patrolling the northern Syrian city of Manbij.
Erdogan’s remarks came during his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s election rallies in the Black Sea province of Samsun and Ordu.
“We are cleaning Manbij [from terrorists]. PYD/YPG are leaving the area and we achieved this via diplomatic means,” Erdogan said.
Recalling Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s talks with his American counterpart in the U.S. on June 4, he said the U.S. started to proceed east of the Euphrates as a result of the meeting.
“We are working together with Russia and Iran in the west [of Euphrates],” he added.
Erdogan said the agreement reached with the U.S. was being executed step by step.
He also said Syrian refugees who had escaped from Manbij and came to Turkey would return to their homes after the area is cleared of terrorists.
He likened this to the 200,000 Syrians, who were returning to their homes in Afrin and Jarabulus, after they were liberated from terrorists following Turkey's anti-terror operations in the area.
Armored vehicles belonging to the Turkish army were stationed around Sajur river which runs through the town of Jarabulus, in the area where Operation Euphrates Shield took place, and Manbij.
Operation Euphrates Shield, which began in August 2016 and ended in March 2017, was aimed at eliminating the terrorist threat along the Turkish border with the use of the Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkish artillery and air cover.
The joint forces carried out patrols in an area overlooking the U.S. base in Syria's town of Dadat.
The patrols, in line with a roadmap devised by the U.S. and Turkey on the issue of Manbij, lasted around three hours.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also confirmed the launch of the joint patrols during a meeting with civil society representatives in Istanbul.
“As of today, our soldiers have also begun their duty in Manbij. They are working with the U.S. to liberate Manbij from terrorist elements,” Yildirim said.
At a news briefing on the issue, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "[Turkish forces] have also started entering Manbij. The YPG [terrorists] will be repelled from Manbij."
Cavusoglu said the goal was to implement the previously agreed roadmap first in Manbij and then to continue in other cities.
"We aim to repel YPG [terrorists] from all areas they control and to stabilize these areas," Cavusoglu said, adding that the final goal was to leave these areas to the residents.
Meanwhile, presidential aide Ibrahim Kalin tweeted: “For the safety of our country and the territorial integrity of Syria, these efforts will be continued with diligence and determination.
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces on Monday welcomed the launch of U.S. and Turkish patrols in Manbij in line with the June 4 agreement between the two countries.
In a statement, national coalition leader Abdurrahman Mustafa described the move as “an important step towards ensuring stability in liberated areas, repatriating displaced persons, and safeguarding the area from terrorist groups”.
The existence of a roadmap was first announced after a meeting in Washington last week between Cavusoglu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Turkey has said the presence of terrorist forces near its border constitute a threat, and has launched military operations and other efforts to rid the region of terrorists.
The deal focuses on the withdrawal of the PKK-affiliated YPG terror group from the northern Syrian city in order to stabilize in the region.
Should the model prove to be a success, Turkey will push for a similar arrangement in eastern Syria.
In its over-30-year terrorist campaign against Turkey, the PKK has taken some 40,000 lives. The YPG/PKK is its Syrian branch.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.