Turkey steps back from striking Syria's Manbij


Turkey on Monday stepped back from threats to strike Syrian Kurdish militia forces deployed in Manbij, a former Islamic State group bastion, unless it was in cooperation with Russia and the United States.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim's announcement came after Ankara on Thursday threatened to strike Syrian Kurdish forces -- considered "terrorists" by Turkey -- if they did not withdraw from the flashpoint town of Manbij.

"It makes no sense to launch an operation in Manbij without the cooperation of Russia and the United States," Yildirim told Turkey's A Haber and ATV television channels.

Turkey had repeatedly warned that the next target of its cross-border Syria operation would be Manbij.

Ankara launched an unprecedented military campaign inside Syria in August, joining the anti-IS fight while also working to keep in check the Kurdish fighters.

However, the situation in northern Syria has grown increasingly complicated for Turkey since it backed the recapture of Al-Bab, another key town near the Turkish border.

Russia and Syrian regime forces have now started to move "humanitarian" convoys into Manbij -- making it more difficult for Turkish troops to launch the offensive they had threatened.

The Pentagon meanwhile said Monday it had sent additional US troops into northern Syria in a show of strength aimed at deterring rival powers from targeting each other instead of IS.

The United States backs the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance to fight IS.

These fighters, who include the YPG among their ranks, carried out the offensive that pushed the jihadists from Manbij.

Seen by Washington as the most effective anti-IS fighters, the SDF are pressing an advance towards retaking the group's de facto capital of Raqa, backed by a US-led coalition that has been carrying out air strikes in Syria and Iraq since 2014.

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