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Turkey pours cold water on YPG claim it left Syria's Manbij

Kurdish militia claimed on Sunday it had vacated flashpoint town near the Turkish border, a longstanding Ankara demand
Manbij Military Council holds news conference in June, day after Syrian Kurdish militia said it would withdraw (AFP/file photo)

A Turkish diplomatic source on Monday denied a Kurdish YPG claim the militia's fighters had vacated the northern Syrian town of Manbij.

"We find the reports on YPG/PYD’s withdrawal from Manbij exaggerated. The process is still continuing. YPG’s withdrawal from the check points on the patrolling route is continuing," the source said.

"We are still preparing for joint patrols with the US. Hence, the reports on the YPG/PYD’s total withdrawal from Manbij doesn’t reflect the truth."

Turkey objects to the presence of the YPG in Syria near its border. It views the YPG as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency on Turkish soil. Washington sees the YPG as a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.

"The Manbij Military Council announces that the last batch of (YPG) military advisers completed its withdrawal on July 15, 2018, after completing their mission of military training and preparation of our forces...," the militia controlling the town said in a statement.

The Manbij Military Council is a militia allied to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria. It has repeatedly said there were no YPG fighters in Manbij, only some remaining YPG military advisers.

The announcement came after Turkey and the United States reached a deal last month over Manbij after months of disagreement. Under that deal, the YPG would withdraw from Manbij and Turkish and US forces would jointly maintain security and stability around the town.

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