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Manbij model could be implemented in other Kurdish areas in northern Syria: experts

(Xinhua)    07:27, December 29, 2018

DAMASCUS, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army's entry to the Kurdish-controlled city of Manbij in northern Syria to avert the city a Turkish campaign could be a model that would be implemented in Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria, experts said.

The Syrian army said it entered the city of Manbij in the northern countryside of Aleppo in northern Syria on Friday upon the request of its residents.

"Out of the commitment of the Syrian army to handle its responsibilities, and upon the calls of the people of Manbij, the general command of the Syrian army declares entering Manbij and hosting the Syrian flag in it," the Syrian army said in a statement Friday.

The army's statement came after a statement by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), in which the Kurdish group invited the Syrian government forces to assume its positions in Manbij to avert the region a Turkish campaign targeting the Kurdish militia.

Earlier this month, Turkey said it was planning a campaign against the Kurdish militia of the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) over their links with the Turkey-banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The invitation also comes on the heels of the surprising U.S. decision to withdraw from Syria, including from areas controlled by the Kurds, which makes the Kurdish militia on their own facing two choices, either face the Turkish forces and risk losing or reach an agreement with the Syrian army.

"We invite the Syrian government forces ... to assert control over the areas where our forces have withdrawn from, particularly Manbij, and to protect these areas against a Turkish invasion," the YPG statement read Friday.

The YPG added that it will focus on the fight against the Islamic State (IS) on the east of the Euphrates River.

Earlier this year, the Kurdish militia lost the northern enclave of Afrin to the Turkish forces after they rejected the entry of the Syrian government forces to assume control of Afrin.

The Kurdish militia seems to have learned from that lesson, which explains their decision to hand over Manbij to the Syrian army this time.

Ayham Amer, a Syrian political expert, told Xinhua that Manbij will be a model that would be implemented in other Kurdish areas in the eastern Euphrates River region in a way that would restore the Syrian government's control over that area.

"Had the Kurdish militia agreed to similar scenario before, Afrin would have never been lost to the Turkey-backed rebels," he said.

For his part, Hussain Othman, a member of the Syrian National Democratic Alliance, a left-wing multi-ethnic political party established in 2014 in northern Syria, told Xinhua that the Syrian army entered and was deployed on the frontline between the Kurdish-backed Manbij Military Council (MMC) and the Turkey-backed rebels.

The Manbij-based politician said that the entry of the Syrian army comes as part of an agreement that has been reached between the government forces and the Kurdish militia.

Othman noted that if the situation in Manbij succeeded in the recent formula, there could be other deployments of the Syrian army in other Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria.

He said the Manbij agreement is a "test of the intentions" for both sides.

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that the entry of the Syrian government forces to Manbij and raising the Syrian flag is a positive step that would be conducive in restoring stability in the country.

"The enlargement of the zone under the control of government forces... is, without doubt, a positive trend," said Peskov.

In the same context, local reports recently suggested that a delegation of the Kurdish militia visited Moscow where talks took place about the need for the Kurdish forces to hand over areas to the Syrian army.

Turkey-backed rebels amassed forces and declared on Friday their readiness to launch the offensive against Manbij even after the entry of the Syrian army.

A commander in the Turkey-backed National Army rebel group was cited by activists as saying that 15,000 militants are ready to storm Manbij.

Turkish officials also seemed skeptic about the new deployment in Manbij.

Turkish Defense Ministry said Friday that the YPG has no authority to make statements on behalf of the region's people or "invite other elements" into the region, in reference to the invitation of the Syrian army.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Syrian military's entry into Manbij a "psychological act," adding that there is nothing certain at this moment.

However, Erdogan noted that if the Kurdish militia leaves, there will be no military action.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Russia and Turkey will hold high-level talks on Syria in Moscow soon, with Turkish delegation set to visit Moscow on Dec. 29.

The talks will apparently touch on the Kurdish issue in northern Syria and experts believe that the Russian side has already coordinated with Turkey in that regard.

"I think that the entry of the Syrian army will thwart the Turkish campaign, and the Turkish high rhetoric aims to practice pressure on the Kurdish militia into withdrawing from other areas," Maher Ihsan, a political expert, told Xinhua.

He said the upcoming meeting in Moscow will discuss the situation in other Kurdish areas, and "we could see the implementation of the Manbij scenario in other areas in northern Syria as it is the only way to preserve the sovereignty of Syria and push away any foreign military intervention."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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