Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that Moscow expects the Syrian government to retake areas of the country in the north that the United States will soon vacate, the Associated Press reported.

Following the surprise U.S. decision to withdraw troops from Syria announced last Wednesday, Russian ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow welcomes the U.S. troop exit and territories in eastern Syria should be given to the Syrian government in accordance with international law.

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

Turkey is working with the United States on its troop withdrawal but is unwavering in its demands to clear U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters from Manbij in northeastern Syria, AP wrote.

Asked about Turkey’s plans, Zakharova said that Moscow and Ankara have worked together on their policies in Syria, “including military counter-terrorist operations.”

However, a spokesman for Turkey-backed Syrian rebels said their fighters would not accept the return of the Syrian government to eastern Syria and Manbij. Up to 15,000 fighters with the rebel Syrian National Army plan to enter the territories that the United States is expected to leave. As Turkey plans an offensive into Manbij, sending tanks and forces to the border, rebel forces are nearing the city’s outskirts, AP wrote.

Youssef Hammoud, spokesman for the Syrian National Army, told AP that the Syrian government’s return would bring “a disaster and a catastrophe.”


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