Erdogan to Trump: US should withdraw from Syria’s Manbij

A Turkish convoy arrives at a military base in Rihanli, near the Turkish-Syrian border, Hatay province, Turkey on January 17, 2018. (Reuters)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told US President Donald Trump in a phone call on Wednesday that US troops should withdraw from northern Syria's Manbij region, Turkey's foreign minister said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, prior to his phone call with Trump, Erdogan said Turkey would extend its military operation in Syria to the town of Manbij, a move that could potentially bring Turkish forces into confrontation with those of their NATO ally the United States.

Speaking to reporters following a news conference with his Austrian counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu also said Turkey would not attack Syrian government forces unless they made a move against Turkey.

US President Donald Trump urged Turkey to curtail its military operation in northern Syria and warned it not to bring US and Turkish forces into conflict on Wednesday but analysts said he has little leverage to halt its NATO allies’ offensive there.

Turkey's air and ground operation in Syria's Afrin region, now in its fifth day, targets US-backed Kurdish YPG fighters, which Ankara sees as allies of Kurdish insurgents who have fought in southeastern Turkey for decades.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he would extend the operation to Manbij, a separate Kurdish-held enclave some 100 km (60 miles) east of Afrin, possibly putting US forces there at risk and threatening US plans to stabilize a swathe of Syria.

Speaking with Erdogan by telephone, Trump became the latest US official to try to rein in the offensive and to pointedly flag the risk of the two allies' forces coming into conflict.

"He urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties," a White House statement said.

"He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces."

The United States has around 2,000 troops in Syria.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
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