Turkish troops are ready to implement a plan on the northeastern city of Manbij in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, implying that Turkish-backed Arab fighters could enter the town from which U.S. troops are expected to withdraw.
“There are a lot of rumors. As of this moment, it seems like there will be no trouble in [northern Syrian town of] Kobane with the positive approach of Russia. As for Manbij, we are ready to implement the decision we have taken,” Erdoğan told reporters on Oct. 14 at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport before his departure to Azerbaijan where he will attend the 7th Summit of the Turkic Council.
The president was referring to recent news about a deal Damascus has reportedly made with the SDF.
The U.S.-backed SDF, a group dominated by the YPG, has been controlling some 28 percent of the Syrian territories, including the majority of the 911-kilometer Syria-Turkey border. Turkey deems the YPG the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization also by the United States and the European Union.
Erdoğan also recalled Turkey’s deal with the U.S., saying the commitments were not fulfilled.
“Terrorist organizations were supposed to be cleared from Manbij in 90 days. It’s been over a year, but Manbij is still not cleared of. Turkey will not enter Manbij if it gets cleared,” he said.
Turkey and the U.S. agreed on June 4, 2018 over a road map for the withdrawal of all YPG troops from Manbij to the east of River Euphrates and for the establishment of a new city council by local Arabs. The deal, however, has not been completely implemented.
On Dec. 19, 2018, Trump announced Washington’s decision to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Trump later said Erdoğan has assured him that Turkey will finish off ISIL.
“The real owners of [Manbij], our Arab brothers and tribes, will enter there,” he said. The president added that Turkey’s objective in Manbij is to provide security for them.
“Our approach remains the same,” he said.
Regarding the reactions from foreign press on Turkey’s Syria operation, Erdoğan said, “Turkey will continue to tell the truth,” while others “deceive.”
“Are you going to stand by your ally, a NATO member, or the terrorists? Of course, they cannot answer this,” Erdoğan said.
Hurriyet Daily News