ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Reports that Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters have completely left Syria’s Manbij region are exaggerated, as their withdrawal is still underway, a source at Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Monday.
Turkey and the United States reached a deal last month over Manbij, a town in northern Syria, after months of disagreement. Under the deal, the YPG would withdraw from Manbij and Turkish and U.S. forces would maintain security and stability around the town.
The militia controlling Manbij said the last YPG fighters had left on Sunday after completing their mission of military training of local forces. The Manbij Military Council, which controls the town, has repeatedly said their were no YPG fighters there, only some YPG military advisers.
“We find reports that the PYD/YPG have completely withdrawn from Manbij to be exaggerated. The process is still continuing,” the source said.
“Withdrawal from the checkpoints on the patrol route is ongoing. Joint patrol preparations are continuing. Therefore, at this stage, reports that PYD/YPG have completely withdrawn from Manbij do not reflect the truth.”
The PYD is the political arm of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which is backed by the United States in the fight against Islamic State. That support has infuriated Ankara, which sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The PKK, considered a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Turkey, has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. Ankara fears advances by the YPG in Syria will embolden Kurdish militants at home.
Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by David Dolan