Syrian army enters Kurdish-held town of Manbij | News | DW | 28.12.2018
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Syrian army enters Kurdish-held town of Manbij

The Syrian army has entered the key Kurdish-held town in northern Syria in response to a request by the US-backed YPG. Russia said the move was a "positive step" to help "stabilize the situation" in Syria.

Syria's army entered the northern city of Manbij on Friday, a military spokesman said in a televised statement. Manbij had been under the control of US-backed Kurdish forces and Friday's announcement marks the first time in six years that the Syrian army has held the town.

The move comes in the wake of US President Donald Trump's announced plan to withdraw all US troops from Syria and follows Turkey's decision to move troops into the Manbij area on Sunday.

"The Syrian Armed Forces guarantee full security to all Syrian citizens and others present in the area," the Syrian army command said in a statement.

"The general army command, while underscoring the importance of mobilizing efforts of all the country's people in preserving national sovereignty, renews its determination to crush terrorism and rout all invaders," the statement adds.

Read more: US, Turkey on collision course in Syria's Manbij

A Kurdish request

The Syrian army move on Manbij was made possible by a direct plea for help from Syrian Kurds in the area. The People's Protection Units (YPG), the main Kurdish militia in Syria, called on government troops on Friday to deploy in the north, to help them counter the threat of a Turkish offensive.

The YPG, which Turkey regards as a terrorist group, had been left exposed by the US pledge to withdraw its own troops.

"So we invite the Syrian government which we belong to... to send its armed forces to take over these positions and protect Manbij in the face of Turkish threats," the YPG statement said.

Read more: Opinion: Only Trump's mission is accomplished in Syria

Russia, a staunch ally of President Bashar Assad, welcomed the move. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday said the development was a "positive step" that could help "stabilize the situation" in Syria.

Syria's mobilization into Manbij took place just a day before Russia was set to host top Turkish officials to discuss the crisis in Syria.

jcg/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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