U.S. Tells Turkey: Syrian Kurdish YPG Moving Back to East of Euphrates

The role of the Syrian Kurdish YPG has been a sticking point between Turkey and the U.S., who backs the fighters against ISIS in Syria. Turkey, however sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

YPG fighters gather at the eastern entrance to the town of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border, June 15, 2015.
Reuters

REUTERS - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday that Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters were retreating to the east of the Euphrates river, Turkish Foreign Ministry sources said.

In an early morning call, the two emphasised that the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq would continue together, the sources said.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entered one of Islamic State's last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border on Wednesday, in Turkey's first major U.S.-backed incursion into its southern neighbour.

The role of the Syrian Kurdish YPG has been a sticking point between NATO allies Turkey and the United States. Washington backs the fighters against Islamic State in Syria. Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a three-decade violent insurgency in its Kurdish southeast.

The YPG said on Thursday its forces taking part in an operation to capture the city of Manbij from Islamic State had returned to their bases after the mission was successfully completed.

In a statement, it said military command and all YPG-held positions had been handed to the allied Manbij Military Council, while civilian control was handed to a civilian council on Aug. 15.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that Syrian Kurdish forces had to return to the east of the Euphrates after seizing Manbij, which is located west of the river. Turkey has demanded that Kurdish forces withdraw.

The YPG statement did not say where the bases were located. The Manbij military and civilian councils say they are made up of people from Manbij.