Kurdish militia denies reports of Syrian regime troops inside Manbij
A leading Syrian-Kurdish militia have denied claims that Bashar al-Assad's forces have entered the city of Manbij, as US troops prepare to pull out of northern Syria.
Nuri Mahmoud, spokesperson for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), told Rudaw news channel this weekend that the Syrian regime would not be allowed to enter Manbij, following reports that government troops were already inside the city.
"The Syrian army is not going to enter Manbij city or its surrounding villages. There are no Syrian troops at the moment inside Manbij city," Mahmoud told the Iraqi-Kurdish broadcaster.
He added that although they would not be allowed to enter city, the Syrian regime would be welcomed into YPG controlled territories - including around Manbij - to protect it from a planned Turkish offensive.
"They are going to be stationed outside the cities to protect the integrity of Syria."
The planned Turkish offensive follows US President Donald Trump's announcement earlier this month that some 3,000 American troops would be swiftly withdrawn from Syria.
The announcement led to a backlash among some of Trump's allies, who said that the retreat would leave the US' Kurdish and Arab allies vulnerable to Turkish-led and Syrian regime assaults in northern Syria.
The US soldiers had been working with YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that had been set up to defeat the Islamic State group in Syria.
Separate offensives by the SDF, Turkish-backed rebels and the regime has seen IS cornered in a small stretch of desert in the east of Syria.
Meanwhile, Turkish and Syrian rebel troops have massed on the Syria border and around Manbij ahead of the planned
"Until now there have been no practical steps made by the Americans to withdraw from northern Syria, it is just a decision," Mahmoud added.
"The Americans have not even received advice as to how they should withdraw and from where."
On Saturday, Turkish and Russian ministers met to discuss the situation in Syria and the planned US withdrawal from northern areas.
Both sides agreed to coordinate following the US withdrawal, with Turkey expected to take control of border areas.