Mar 23 2018

I told Trump 'we would not take step back' in Syria- Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he had told U.S. President Donald Trump that Turkey would continue its cross-border operations in northern Syria, pro-government Star newspaper said.

“We also talked with Trump. We expressed our determination and that we would take no step back,” Erdoğan told a party rally.

“We have always been on the side of the innocents. We have never been on the side of the oppressors. We have, thanks be to God, cleaned Afrin. But this work will not finish with Afrin. There are Manbij and Idlib next.”

Turkish troops and their Syrian Islamist allies captured the Syrian city of Afrin from Syrian Kurdish forces on Sunday. While there were no U.S. troops in Afrin, U.S. forces are present on the ground in the Syrian region of Manbij helping to train Syrian Kurds to fight Islamic State. Although Turkish officials have said they had reached an understanding with the United States to remove Kurdish-led forces from Manbij, U.S. officials have denied such a deal.

"The two leaders committed to continue efforts to intensify cooperation on shared strategic challenges and to address the concerns of both countries that affect the bilateral relations," the White House said in a statement that did not mention Syria following the call, according to Reuters.

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels are fighting Syrian government troops, their allies and al Qaeda-linked rebels in Idlib.

Erdoğan said more than 3,700 of what he called terrorists had been neutralised – killed or captured – in Afrin. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian civil war, said some 1,500 Kurdish fighters had been killed in the two-month cross border offensive.

Erdogan, on Thursday, for the first time revealed about the future plans for Syria's Afrin region. Erdogan said, "in a few days, there will be appointments with regards to local governance, including appointing a [new] governor [for Afrin]. The restoration works about the security and living conditions has began. We are taking initiatives based on claims that FSA forces looted."