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article imageSyria Kurds say to pull forces from flashpoint town of Manbij

By AFP     Jun 5, 2018 in World

A powerful Syrian Kurdish militia announced Tuesday it will withdraw from Manbij, a day after key brokers Ankara and Washington held talks on the fate of the strategic town.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) spearheaded a victorious offensive in 2016 to rid Manbij of the Islamic State group, and had kept military advisors in the town to train local forces.

"Now, after more than two years of continuous work and with the Manbij Military Council being self-sufficient in their training, the YPG has decided to pull its military advisors from Manbij," it said in a statement.

The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-Arab alliance that has ousted IS from swathes of Syria with help from the US-led coalition.

The coalition has both American and French troops stationed in Manbij, but the YPG statement did not say whether they would be redeployed.

It also made no mention of ongoing efforts between the US and Turkey to resolve the fate of the flashpoint town.

For months, Ankara has threatened to march on Manbij, accusing the YPG of being the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is blacklisted in Turkey.

Those threats raised fears of a confrontation between Turkish and American troops that talks have tried to tamp down.

Last month, Ankara and Washington outlined a "roadmap" to coordinate security in Manbij.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusolgu discussed the Manbij plan in Washington on Monday, the State Department said.

"They endorsed a Road Map to this end and underlined their mutual commitment to its implementation, reflecting agreement to closely follow developments on the ground," it said in a statement, providing no further details.

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