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Russia calls for Syrian government to retake areas where US troops withdraw

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says pullout of American soldiers will ‘have a positive impact’

US Marine Corps tactical vehicles are seen driving along a road near the town of Tal Baydar in the countryside of Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province on December 21, 2018. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)
US Marine Corps tactical vehicles are seen driving along a road near the town of Tal Baydar in the countryside of Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province on December 21, 2018. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)

BEIRUT — Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Moscow expects the Syrian government to take over the areas where the US troops are currently deployed following their withdrawal.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova emphasized that the territories in eastern Syria should be handed over to the Syrian government in line with international law. She said Moscow is unaware of any details of the planned US withdrawal from Syria, but added that the move would help peaceful settlement in Syria if implemented.

“If the troop withdrawal happens, it would have a positive impact on the situation,” Zakharova said at a briefing.

US President Donald Trump abruptly announced the pullout from Syria last week, surprising allies and sparking the resignation of two of his top aides. The US backed Kurdish-led forces in the oil-rich eastern Syria for four years, and its withdrawal will leave the area up for grabs.

Turkey said Tuesday it is working with the United States to coordinate the withdrawal of American forces but remains “determined” to clear US-allied Kurdish fighters from Manbij in northeastern Syria.

A picture taken on April 8, 2018, shows Syrian Army soldiers gathering in an area on the eastern outskirts of Douma, as they continue their fierce offensive to retake the last opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta.
AFP PHOTO / STRINGER

Asked about Turkey’s plans to launch an attack on the area, Zakharova answered that Russia and Turkey have closely coordinated their actions in Syria, “including military counter-terrorist operations,” but wouldn’t elaborate further.

For weeks, Turkey has been threatening to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish fighters, who partnered with the US to drive the Islamic State group out of much of northern and eastern Syria. Ankara views the Kurdish forces as terrorists because of their links to an insurgent group inside Turkey.

Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters have been moving to the outskirts of Manbij and the Turkish army continues to dispatch tanks, artillery and other equipment to the border and an area administered by Turkey in northern Syria, according to Turkish media reports.

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