Displaced Syrians wait at the Tayha crossing in the countryside of Manbij city in northern Syria Jan. 3, 2019. Cautious calm prevails Syria's northern city of Manbij amid consecutive withdrawal of hundreds of Turkey-backed rebels from its surrounding, a war monitor reported on Thursday. (Xinhua)
DAMASCUS, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Cautious calm prevails Syria's northern city of Manbij amid consecutive withdrawal of hundreds of Turkey-backed rebels from its surrounding, a war monitor reported on Thursday.
Aside from the hundreds of Turkey-backed rebels, tens of Kurdish-led fighters have also withdrawn from inside Manbij, a contested city that was about to be a flashpoint battlefield between the Turkey-backed rebels and the Kurdish-led ones.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the withdrawal of the Turkey-backed rebels, who were poised for a wide-scale campaign against the Kurdish militia inside Manbij, comes against the backdrop of an undeclared Turkish-Russian understanding about Manbij.
A day earlier, the Syrian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the 400 Kurdish-led fighters withdrew from Manbij, which is located in the northeastern countryside of Aleppo province, to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.
The Observatory said that the Syrian army was deployed on the frontline between the Turkey-backed rebels and the Kurdish-led ones late last month as part of the Turkey-Russian deal.
On Thursday, the pro-government al-Watan newspaper said that Manbij is preparing for the entry of the Syrian army. It added that Turkey is withdrawing its allied rebels from its surroundings.
The newspaper said the movements and developments in Manbij reflect the size of the agreements that are taking place about on the road to see the Syrian government fully in control of the city again.
Citing what it described as diplomatic sources in Moscow, the newspaper said one of the items of the agreement is the return of Manbij under the supervision of the Syrian state.
About the fate of the Kurdish-controlled areas in the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, al-Watan said there has been an agreement about withdrawing the Kurdish militia's heavy weapons from the region there.
It said that the future of the region in the eastern Euphrates and the return of the Syrian government there will be discussed in the upcoming Astana talks.
Turkey has recently threatened to attack Manbij and areas in the eastern Euphrates River to dislodge the Kurdish militia of the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the allied Syrian Democratic Force (SDF).
The Kurdish militia, which has felt the pinch after the U.S. decision to withdraw its forces from Syria, resorted to the Syrian government to protect Manbij and other areas against the Turkish campaign.
Russia mediated the talks and the Syrian government forces said they entered Manbij, which apparently helped to defuse the tension and led to the withdrawal of the Turkey-backed rebels as Ankara's main concern is the presence of the Kurdish militia in northern Syria near its southern border.