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Erdogan backs down on Manbij

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a bilateral meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Washington March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTSD02Q

Following the parallel deployments of Russian and Turkish troops to the Kurdish controlled Syrian town of Manbij, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is reported as saying that Turkey has no intention of attacking the town.

This reverses previous statements of Turkish President Erdogan, who had spoken of Manbij as Turkey’s next objective following the capture from ISIS of the Syrian town of Al-Bab.

Yildirim is being reported as saying at a political rally in Sinope, Turkey

We do not consider the scenario, under which the Syrian army would enter Manbij, as negative one. The Kurdish self-defence units are leaving the city. The Syrian land must belong to the Syrians

There is a mix of illusion and realism in these words.  There are no indications of the Kurds withdrawing from Manbij.  However it is true that with the arrival of the Syrian troops to the area some of Turkey’s concerns about the Kurdish presence in Manbij may have been allayed.  Though the Turks have come nowhere close to giving up their hostility to the Syrian government, which for almost six years they have been seeking to overthrow, it is nonetheless the case that they would rather have the Syrians in control of Manbij and its surrounding area than the Kurds.  The deployment of Syrian troops to the area, even if done with the agreement of the Kurds, arguably brings that outcome a little closer.

Nonetheless the fact that the US and Russia have united in barring his way to Manbij will be a severe blow to President Erdogan even if he is no position to do anything about it.

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