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US troops block Russian forces’ way to oil fields in northeastern 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)
US armored vehicles are seen on the key M4 highway in Syria's northeastern province of al-Hasakah on January 20, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

US military forces present in areas controlled by militants of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah have reportedly stopped a Russian military convoy from reaching oil fields there.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday that the Russian convoy, which consisted of five armored personnel carriers and a pickup truck, turned back and returned to their home base the previous day, after US troopers stopped them and did not allow them to reach their targeted oil fields. 

The report added that the standoff ended without any significant clashes or any real risk of violence between the two sides.

The development took place amid an ongoing dispute between the US and Russia over Rumeylan oil field, which lies in the northeastern flank of Hasakah province.

On January 16, the United States dispatched dozens of truckloads of military and logistical equipment to oil-rich areas under its control in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr and Hasakah province.

Local sources from the Kurdish-majority northeastern city of Qamishli, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Syria’s official news agency SANA at the time that a convoy of 75 trucks crossed the Semalka border crossing, which is a pontoon bridge across the Tigris, and headed towards US positions in the two provinces.

In late October last year, Washington reversed an earlier decision to pull out all of its troops from northeastern Syria, announcing the deployment of about 500 soldiers to the oil fields controlled by Kurdish forces in the Arab country.

The US claimed that the move was aimed at protecting the fields and facilities from possible attacks by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group. That claim came although US President Donald Trump had earlier suggested that Washington sought economic interests in controlling the oilfields.
Pentagon chief Mark Esper then threatened that the US forces deployed to the oil fields would use “military force” against any party that might seek to challenge control of the sites, even if it were Syrian government forces or their Russian allies.

Syria, which has not authorized American military presence in its territory, has said the US is “plundering” the country’s oil.

On December 18, 2019, China’s special envoy for Syria said the United States’ pretext for extending its military presence in the Arab country, namely to protect Syrian oil fields, was untenable.

“Who have given the Americans the right to do this? And, at whose invitation is the US protecting Syria’s oil fields?” Xie Xiaoyan said at a press conference in Moscow.

“Let’s think the other way around: will the US allow Syria to send troops to US territory to protect oil fields there?” he said.

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