Published: Sat, November 03, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

US, Turkey begin patrols around northern Syrian town

US, Turkey begin patrols around northern Syrian town

Turkish officials say U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed to take "constructive steps" toward strengthening ties.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have announced a pause in their campaign against the Islamic State (IS) terror group following clashes with Turkish forces, according to American military officials.

However, even as the joint patrols were due to begin this week, Turkey announced a new offensive against the Kurds on the opposite bank of the river, into territory where the SDF has United States troop support.

Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.

US-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria say Turkish military vehicles are massing near the border ahead of an expected assault that could derail their fight against ISIS in the east of the country and further strain relations between Ankara and Washington, its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

"The real importance of France & Germany going to Turkey to meet Putin & Erdogan is that they are effectively hiving off from the US", Joshua Landis, a prominent Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma, wrote on Twitter.

The Turkish leader noted that his country is finished preparing for operations in Syrian Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria, located east of the Euphrates River.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, also said the patrols will begin Thursday adding that they follow days of Turkish shelling of positions of the main Kurdish militia.

The US State Department had quickly expressed its "concern" over the attack targeting the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which form the backbone of the SDF.

Part of the roadmap calls for joint US-Turkish patrols near Manbij, which Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday would begin any day. Joint patrols are considered a way to tamp down potential violence between the various groups in the region.

"Soon, we will descend on them with more comprehensive and effective" force, said Erdogan, who has long vowed to clear all of northern Syria of the militia.

"We have completed all preparations for the east of the Euphrates.

Ankara thinks that the terror groups on the eastern part of the Euphrates are undermining Syria's unitary structure and threatening Turkey's territorial integrity", he told Arab News.

For now, Russian Federation seems to support Turkey's military moves on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

Ankara and Washington agreed on a road map in June amid Turkish demands for the withdrawal of the YPG, which freed Manbij from ISIS in 2016.

"Offensive operations have been halted, defensive operations continue".

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