Turkey will sweep the Democratic Party Union (PYD) from Manbij, a key Syrian city close to the Turkish border that has been liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed.
“We are determined to clear the PYD from Manbij,” Erdoğan said on Oct. 26, addressing a meeting of muhtars (neighborhood heads) at a meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara.
“We will do whatever necessary if they do not return back across the other side of the Euphrates river,” Erdoğan said.
Turkey, which considers the PYD and its armed wing People’s Protection Units (PYD) as a terrorist organization linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), says the group should not pass to the west of the Euphrates river and rejects any option of cooperating with PKK-affiliated groups in fights against ISIL either in Syria or Iraq.
“There is an effort to form a terror corridor along the border but we will not permit this,” Erdoğan said.
“Let’s make a joint fight against terrorist organizations. But Aleppo belongs to the people of Aleppo, we must explain this … making calculations over Aleppo would not be right,” he added.
His comments came after forces allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned Turkey against any advance toward their positions to the north and east of Aleppo, saying any such move would be met “decisively and with force.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also vowed that Turkey’s operation in Syria would continue despite attacks from Syria near al-Bab.
“Such attacks will not stop us from combatting Daesh. The Euphrates Shield operation will continue. The operation will continue until al-Bab. We will make this region a safe haven for those who want to return,” Çavuşoğlu said on Oct. 26, also accusing the forces of al-Assad and Russia of having no intention to target ISIL militants.
“We know that regime in Syria and its supporters are not attacking Daesh. And they do not touch the YPG. Their only concern is [attacking] the moderate opposition, those who fight against Daesh. And they want al-Nusra to withdraw from Aleppo just because they want to recapture Aleppo,” he said.
Elaborating on recent statement by Hashdi Shaabi forces in Iraq for involving in an upcoming offensive in Tel Afar, Çavuşoğlu said Ankara would not remain deaf to any attacks on the Turkmen community in the region.
He also said Turkey still expects a delegation from Baghdad in order to talk to Turkish forces in the military camp in Bashiqa region. Turkey has invited Iraqi side and the latter, but there has been no date set for the meeting yet, he added.
As the Turkish-backed FSA fighters push south towards al-Bab, an ISIL-held town 35 kilometers northeast of Aleppo, they face confrontation with both Kurdish and pro-Assad forces, whose frontlines lie close by.
The field commander of the forces allied to the Syrian leader – which include the Lebanese group Hezbollah, Iraqi militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards – warned Turkey any advance towards their positions north and east of Aleppo would be met “decisively and with force.”
The commander, who was not identified by name, nationality or affiliation made the comments during a tour of frontlines to the north of Aleppo in a written statement sent to Reuters. They came a day after what the Turkish military said was a barrel bomb attack on the rebels its backs by a Syrian helicopter.
The Turkish military said a helicopter “assessed to belong to regime forces” bombed the rebels in a village near Akhtarin, a town 5 kilometers southeast of Dabiq, late on Oct. 25. Dabiq is a former ISIL stronghold which the rebels seized from the jihadists this month.
It was the first time a direct clash between Syrian forces and the Turkish-backed rebels has been announced. Two rebels were killed and five wounded, the Turkish army said.