“For me, it is not very negative for the [Syrian] regime to enter Manbij. Why? In the end, it is their territory. But it is important that terrorist organizations don’t stay there. That’s what we tell them, ‘Will the YPG/PYD stay there or not?’” Erdoğan told journalists late Oct. 15, before his departure from Azerbaijan’s capital Baku where he attended the seventh summit of the Turkic Council in the country.
“I told [Russian President Vladimir] Putin this. If you will clear Manbij from terrorist organizations, you or the regime should provide the logistics. Because [nearly] 90 percent of Manbij belongs to Arabs, not Kurds,” he said.
Erdoğan added that he did not receive an answer to his question.
The president conveyed that Turkish forces have reached about 32 kilometers of depth in northern Syria and took control of the strategic M4 highway.
“During this process, we showed and continue to show maximum effort for the safety of civilians,” he said.
“The other side is brutal. A lot of civilians lost their lives because they launched about 700 howitzers and ballistic missiles onto our side,” he said.
“We are, of course, very sensitive on [the security of] civilians,” he added.
The president conveyed that 4,000 civilians lost their lives in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, while nearly 11,000 lost their lives in Mosul, accusing Western states overlooking these casualties.
“Unfortunately, Western countries always ignored these. They never talked about these. Now, they are trying to repress us. We have been carrying out our operation against terrorist organizations,” he said.
The aim of “Operation Peace Spring” is to eliminate the terror elements on Turkey’s borders and ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees, according to the president.
“Of course, [this will be] based on their choice,” he said, referring to the Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“The operation will continue until it reaches its objectives,” he added.
Turkey’s operation is not against Kurds or do not target civilians, Erdoğan stressed. He added that the operation will not weaken the fight against ISIL or pave the way for any kind of humanitarian disaster.
“These are lies made up to protect the terrorist organization,” he said.
Erdoğan also discussed imprisoned ISIL terrorists in a phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump reportedly asked if Turkey can assume responsibility for them.
Erdoğan told some could be sent to their home countries and others could face trial. But the YPG released the prisoners, he said.
“The agenda of the PYD/YPG is obvious. This organization, which was acting with U.S., now looks for a new way to have a deal with the regime. The Western countries who say this organization is their allies should stop and think. So, I ask, ‘Who is your real ally? Is it Turkey or PYD/YPG or Daesh?’” Erdoğan said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
‘Turkey will not sit with terrorist organizations’
Erdoğan also referred to the phone conversation he held with Trump on Oct. 14, conveying the U.S. president’s offer on mediating in case of a ceasefire.
“I told him, ‘We will not sit at the same table with the terrorist organization. I do not find it right that a country such as U.S. comes between its ally Turkey and a terrorist organization,’” he said.
“We will never declare a ceasefire,” he said.
Turkey is in a bid to clear the region of terrorists, he added.
Erdoğan had made an offer to Trump on sending a U.S. delegation to Turkey, he said.
“Because they are saying we should declare a ceasefire,” he added.
Upon Erdoğan’s offer, Trump decided to send a delegation including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, he said.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien is to meet with İbrahim Kalın, the presidential spokesperson, Erdoğan conveyed.
The U.S. announces sanctions while inviting Turkey to the country on Nov. 13, the president added.
“We do not have concerns about any sanctions,” he stressed.
Erdoğan on Oct. 16 said that terrorists must lay down their arms and leave the safe zone as determined by Turkey.
“By tonight all terrorists must lay down their arms, destroy their traps, and leave the safe zone we determined,” he said at a parliamentary group meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Rejecting offers to “mediate” in the conflict, he echoed his previous remarks and said, “The Republic of Turkey never in its history sat down around a table with terrorist groups. We are not looking for a mediator for that.”
He also expressed scepticism over reports that the Syrian regime had made an agreement with the SDF — a group formed mostly by YPG members — over Manbij.
Turkey and Russia already have an agreement over Manbij, he said.
“Our most important issue is that Russia, or the regime, should clear it of the [terrorist] YPG/PYD,” he added.
Turkey wants to give back the northern Syrian territories to the millions of Syrians living in Turkey, he reiterated.
Hurriyet Daily News