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Turkey threatens to move on Kurdish-held stronghold in Syria

Turkish soldier on armoured tank in Gaziantep
A Turkish soldier on an armoured personnel carrier waves as it is driven from the border back to their base in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province. [file photo]

Turkey’s next target after Al-Bab’s liberation is the Syrian town of Manbij, and it is crucial to clear the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) Syrian-offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD) from the area, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Arab media yesterday.

In an interview with Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya, Erdogan said that the PKK’s Syrian-offshoots, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the PYD, which are still in Manbij, need to be cleared as soon as possible because the area is demographically dominated by Arabs.

“We’ve told the Obama administration before that Manbij needs to be handed over to the Arabs and they told us that the PYD/YPG was leaving, but unfortunately they never left,” Erdogan said and added that after Manbij, Raqqa would be the only major Daesh stronghold in Syria.

Daesh still have a strong presence in other areas of Syria, including areas around Deir ez-Zor and the historical city of Palmyra.

Ankara considers the YPG a terror group, an offshoot of the outlawed PKK, which is itself listed as a terrorist organisation by the US, Turkey and the EU. Turkey has voiced concerns over the YPG moving into Manbij, which has a predominantly Arab population. Turkey has also warned against YPG’s aim of making demographic changes in areas captured from Daesh.

Meanwhile, the YPG’s presence has become a matter of political friction between Ankara and Washington. Ankara argues that US support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), predominantly led by Kurdish militants, is eventually transferred to the PKK and ultimately used against Turkey.

The PKK launched a violent separatist campaign in the 1980s, aiming to carve an exclusively Kurdish de facto state in Turkey’s southeast that has since killed 40,000 people, mostly civilians.

Last year, Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield to clear the towns of Jarablus, Al-Rai and Al-Bab from Daesh, while preventing the YPG from extending its control over these towns and providing a backdoor for PKK militants to plan attacks in Turkey from Syria.

Erdogan highlighted that, in Raqqa, Turkey would cooperate with the US-backed coalition forces to liberate the town from Daesh, which would ensure peace in the region, according to the Turkish president.

Erdogan continued by saying that the support of Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia is crucial to handle the ongoing crisis in the region, as he emphasised that millions of refugees had fled their homeland. In this regard, he reiterated the importance of creating a “terror-free zone” between Jarablus and Al-Rai in northern Syria, where local forces could be trained and equipped.

“I discussed this issue with my Saudi friends, US and EU officials,” Erdogan said, adding that he suggested the safe zone could also provide opportunities for people to safely return to Syria.

The president said that Turkey’s fight against Daesh will continue “with determination” and that Turkey will never allow the PYD/YPG to establish a state in northern Syria.

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  • lewwer

    SDF is the only multiethnic and multireligious force in Syria.

    • Rui Teixeira Neves

      SDF are just collaborators of nazi dictator Assad

      • Gavin Allen

        No they’re not. That’s utter b/s and lame propaganda. SDF / YPG are neutral in the Syrian civil war. Get over it.

  • Gavin Allen

    “it is crucial to clear the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) Syrian-offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD)” – they are two different parties in two different countries, and both are fully justified. The Turkish dictatorship’s propaganda on this issue is pathetic. If Turkey doesn’t want the PKK to hit its army in Turkey, it should stop committing genocide in Bakur. Syria is a different matter entirely. As for Manbij, it is governed by local Arab people, and the Turkish terrorists want to attack them? They are already bombing civilians across Rojava, and have murdered approximately 2,000 civilians in al Bab alone.

    “The PKK launched a violent separatist campaign in the 1980s, aiming to carve an exclusively Kurdish de facto state in Turkey’s southeast that has since killed 40,000 people, mostly civilians.” – The PKK was formed as a liberation army against Turkish attacks in Kurdish areas. 90% of the 40,000 victims were Kurds. The PKK only hit military targets, but the AKP party has indulged in false flag attacks to smear the Kurds, which account for the vast majority of Turkish civilian deaths. The PKK were listed as a terrorist group under pressure from Turkey only, to appease their ascension to the EU.

    Erdogan is our generation’s equivalent of Hilter, and Turkey is rapidly becoming the new Nazi fatherland. The SDF, YPG, PKK are the route to peace in the middle east, not the Turkish dictator. He will go out the same way as Gaddafi and Hussein.

  • Geogrge

    pkk must atack first, suicide and car bombs are for cowards.

    Fight like a Russian Man, face to face and an eye for an eye.

    • Rui Teixeira Neves

      Russians are nazi terrorists who only massacre syrians bombing them from high skyes, NOT FACE TO FACE

    • Gavin Allen

      “suicide and car bombs” are false flag ops by MIT.

    • Lasse Riise

      Only Erdogan is eager to pick a fight, since it has become his only reason for existing. War is against the interests of both ordinary Turks and Kurds. They both need reconsiliation and peace, so they both can prosper. War only serves Erdogans personal hunger for power.

  • Leave them Kurds alone, Turkey! ALONE.

  • Lasse Riise

    The genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks paved the way for the Turkish state. So, Erdogan is completely without any credibility on the issue of ethnic cleansing. Analysts has called Erdogans war against Syrians for the Worlds first egoistic war, conducted only for the powergrab of one person at the expence of millions of Turks.

  • Lasse Riise

    Erdogan sounds ever more confused. He isn’t even able to avoid mixing Daesh up with PYD. It all gets lumped together into a mess in his fantasy bubble.