Russia-backed Syrian forces enter key city Manbij in northern Syria

epa07923498 Syrian soldiers cheer after the Syrian Arab Army completed its deployment in the city of Manbej and its surroundings in Aleppo province's northeastern countryside, Syria, 15 October 2019. According to media reports, the soldiers were welcomed by the locals, who have gathered in the city center, carrying Syrian flags and cheering for the army which came to encounter the Turkish aggression. EPA-EFE/STR

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The strategic city of Manbij has come under Syrian government control after Russia and Syria moved troops into areas near Turkey’s border, filling a vacuum left by withdrawal of US forces.

Russia-backed Syrian government troops on Tuesday advanced into Manbij, a key strategic city west of the Euphrates River near the Turkish border that has been hotly contested by Turkish and Kurdish fighters.

The advance comes hours after Manbij was abandoned by withdrawing US forces, with Russia moving troops in in their stead to play an intermediary role in keeping apart advancing Syrian government forces and Turkish troops.

Turkey had been aiming to capture the city from Kurdish control and had amassed troops for a planned assault. Ankara has faced staunch criticism from European partners and from the US, which imposed sanctions and threatened more to follow late on Monday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected a US call for an immediate ceasefire in northern Syria, saying Turkey’s offensive will continue.

His comments come as US Vice-President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepare to fly to Turkey to try to broker a truce.

On Tuesday, Russia warned that it would not allow clashes to take place between Turkish and Syrian forces.

Turkey says its offensive aims to push Kurdish forces from the border region.

Via DW/Haaretz/Reuters

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