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Turkey, US Officials Discuss Syria Buffer Zone As Manbij Attack Kills American Troops

ANKARA – Gen. Yasar Guler, the chief of Turkey’s General Staff, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, held talks in Brussels on Thursday, the NTV channel reported. The talks concerned the US withdrawal and the buffer zone.
The opposing forces are poised for a race to capture Manbij as soon as the US Army leaves. No doubt Guler asked Dunford today if he would give a date and time for the US departure.
The Russian air force will control the skies once the Americans have left, and Lavrov made it quite clear today how his government thinks the issue should be decided.
“We are convinced that the best and only solution,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow, “is the transfer of these territories to the control of the Syrian government.”
He added that We welcome and support contacts that have now begun between Kurdish representatives and Syrian authorities so they can return to their lives under a single government without outside interference.
Lavrov also said Russia would consider the interests of Syria’s neighbors, including Turkey. Russian President Vladimir Putin previously said Syrian government troops could maintain a buffer zone along the Turkish border.
The Kurds, who control the largest segment of northern Syria, have flatly rejected the idea of Turkey erecting a buffer zone. In a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday, a top Kurdish official said Erdogan’s proposal would be tantamount to an occupation.
Bedran Ciya Kurd, an executive member of the Democratic Society Movement, the coalition governing the Kurdish area, said the Kurds would accept a “safe zone” only under the auspices of the United Nations. Alternatively, Syrian government troops were a possibility, he told the news agency.
On the other hand, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that after US troops withdrawal, the territory should revert to the control of the Syrian government. And hours after Lavrov spoke, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the north-central Syrian town of Manbij, killing 16 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The bomber belonged to the Islamic State (IS, or ISIS), the group said in a statement quoted by The Associated Press.
During an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today, multiple US service members were killed, the US military said in a tweet.
It did not give figures for the dead and wounded.
The bombing inflicted the first US fatalities since President Donald Trump announced Dec. 19 that he was pulling American troops out of Syria because “we have won against ISIS.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the explosion “might be interpreted as an attempt to influence” the US withdrawal from Syria.
The US troops were reportedly walking through the town center with members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition of Arab and Kurdish forces that drove IS out of Manbij in 2016.
A photograph published by the Syrian Kurd news agency ANHA showed a restaurant gutted by fire after the explosion.
Nine of the fatalities were civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, adding that other people were wounded.
The attack occurred a day after Erdogan said he and Trump had agreed on the need for a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border to guard against the infiltration of militants.
In a speech to his party’s legislators, Erdogan said Turkey would establish a 20-mile-deep (32-kilometer) zone, but he later told reporters that no decision had been made and the two countries would negotiate the details.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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