Erdoğan calls for support in returning Syria’s Manbij to "original owners"

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday called on support for Ankara’s efforts to facilitate the return of Syrians to their country while stressing at least 500,000 Syrians were waiting for Turkey to secure the northern Syrian town of Manbij controlled by Kurdish militants to return home, state-run TRT reported.

"Millions of Syrians will return home when we secure the east of the Euphrates [river]," the Turkish president said.” Let us turn Idlib into an entirely safe zone. We say let’s return Manbij to its original owners.’’

Erdoğan’s statements arrive as Turkey promises a "counter-terrorist operation" east of the Euphrates in northern Syria targeting the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) following two similar cross-border operations since 2016.

Ankara maintains the YPG, which controls Manbij, is the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war for autonomy in Turkey for over three decades.

Underlining that Europe owes its current peace to sacrifices made by Turkey and its people, Erdoğan said, "They [Syrians] want to return to their homeland as soon as possible."

Approximately 311,000 Syrians have returned to areas in Afrin, Jarablus and Idlib that were cleared of terrorists by Turkish forces and its allies, Turkey’s strongman said on Saturday.

Erdoğan also stressed that Ankara  would like to make Syria’s northern rebel-held city of Idlib totally secure and  made "significant progress" in talks with staunch Damascus-backer Russia and Iran in this regard.