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Erdogan to Trump: Turkey is ready to take over security in Syria's Manbij

Turkey has been threatening for months to launch offensive in Manbij to drive out Kurdish YPG
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, left, and US President Donald Trump (AFP/file photo)

Turkey is ready to take over security in Syria's Manbij, President Tayyip Erdogan told US President Donald Trump in a telephone call on Sunday, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

In their second phone conversation in less than a week, Erdogan told Trump an attack that left four Americans dead last week in Manbij was a "provocation" aiming to influence the decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, the state news agency Anadolu reported.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack, Reuters said.

The attack occurred almost a month after Trump confounded his own national security team with the surprise decision to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, declaring the Islamic State (IS) group had been defeated there.

Manbij is controlled by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a militia allied to the US-backed Kurdish YPG, which last month invited Syrian forces of President Bashar al-Assad into the area around the town to forestall a potential Turkish assault.

Turkey has been threatening for months to launch an offensive in Manbij to drive out the YPG.

Ankara deems the YPG terrorists linked to the Kurdish PKK movement that has waged a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

US-backed SDF says it will help set up north Syria safe zone
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Still, the YPG has been backed by the United States in the fight against the IS militants.

Erdogan and Trump agreed to accelerate and continue discussions between their chiefs of staff regarding a safe zone in the area, the statement said.

Last week, Trump suggested in a tweet creating a safe zone, without elaborating.

The SDF said on Wednesday it was ready to help create the safe zone, as fears grow that the US withdrawal will give Turkey the opportunity to mount a new assault.

Turkey wants the safe zone to be cleared of the Kurdish group.

"We said we won't let you be here," Prime Minister Fuat Oktay told broadcaster CNN Turk earlier on Sunday, addressing the PKK. "When we are talking about a safe zone, we talk about one in Turkey's control."