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Managing Manbij: top military brass meet in Turkey

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Managing Manbij: top military brass meet in Turkey

Turkey’s military chief-of-staff is meeting his US and Russian counterparts in the southern Turkish province of Antalya.

Regional security, notably in northern Syria, is top of the agenda.

The meeting is being hosted by General Hulusi Akar.

There are concerns about US-backed Syrian Kurds operating in the nothern city of Manbij.

The US and Turkey are also discussing plans to recapture ISIL’s self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria.

Turkey is against involving Syrian Kurdish forces in the operation.

What is the context?

In August, Turkey-backed forces launched an operation to drive ISIL away from its border with Syria.

The aim was to prevent the Kurdish YPG militia seizing territory in their wake.

Since pushing the jihadists out of their al-Bab stronghold, fighting has focused on villages west of Manbij.

This has pitched Turkish-backed rebels against the Manbij Military Council, part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that includes the YPG.

After clashing with Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army rebels west of Manbij earlier this month, the Manbij Military Council (MMC) declared a deal with Russia to hand front-line villages to Syrian government control. The aim is to prevent them coming under Turkish control.

Manbij is now controlled by the MCC. The US military has deployed a small number of forces in and around the city to make sure the different parties do not clash.

Turkey and the YPG

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency in Turkey.

What Turkey says

The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said last week the next target for the operation in northern Syria was Manbij. His comment came after Ankara-backed rebels seized al-Bab.

But Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said military action by Turkey would not make sense unless coordinated with the US and Russia.