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Erdogan welcomes US troop withdrawal from Syria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shaking hands with US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC on May 16, 2017. (Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has welcomed the United States’ announced withdrawal from Syria, temporarily postponing a planned invasion of Syria’s Kurdish-controlled northeastern regions.

Erdogan announced the decision speaking at a rally in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Friday.

"We had decided last week to launch a military incursion in the east of the Euphrates river... Our phone call with President Trump, along with contacts between our diplomats and security officials and statements by the United States, have led us to wait a little longer," said Erdogan.

The Turkish president, however, stressed that the delay was not an “open-ended waiting period.”

"We have postponed our military operation against the east of the Euphrates river until we see on the ground the result of America's decision to withdraw from Syria,” said Erdogan, signaling that a Turkish operation will begin once US troops have left the region.

"In the next months we will see an operational style aimed at removing the YPG (Kurdish People's Protection Units militia) and Daesh (terrorist group) elements on the ground in Syria."

Last week, Erdogan promised a Turkish-led operation against the Kurdish-controlled regions in "the next few days."

The president, however, announced the operation’s delay today just a few days after Trump called for a withdrawal of US troops from Syria, earlier.

Many American forces are currently deployed in the Kurdish-controlled regions of Syria.

Turkey saw the US-led military presence as an obstacle in dealing with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) .

The YPG gained de facto autonomous rule in the region adjoining Turkey’s southern border as Syria’s central government focused its resources on fighting a foreign-led Takfiri insurgency that plunged the country in turmoil in recent years.

Turkey sees the YPG as its enemy and a “terrorist offshoot” of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group. The PKK has been engaged in a prolonged insurgency against Ankara since 1984.

Erdogan’s comments come as Turkey has expressed frustration over what it believes is a slow implementation of an earlier June agreement for the withdrawal of Washington-backed Kurdish militants from the strategic northern Syrian city of Manbij.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also raised the matter speaking earlier today.

"We have the Manbij road map, we discussed whether we can implement this by the time that they (US forces) withdraw," said Cavusoglu.

"So many issues that Turkey and the United States should coordinate, and there shouldn't be any vacuum in the country that terrorist groups might also fill."

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