Feb 27 2019

Manbij residents want Turkish control - Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that locals had repeatedly called on Turkey to take control of the northeast Syrian town on Manbij, reported Hürriyet newspaper

“Because the Syrian people trust us, the tribes repeatedly call on us for Manbij,” he said during an interview jointly broadcast by NTV and Start TV on his 65th birthday. 

Erdoğan also reiterated Ankara’s determination to establish a safe zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border. “We cannot allow some others to control a region that poses a threat. We will be there,” he said, adding that Turkey’s current goal was to clear Manbij of Kurdish rebels

Turkey sees the mainly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting inside Turkey for self-rule for more than three decades. 

Turkey and the United States agreed last year on a roadmap over Manbij, which included the withdrawal of the YPG from the area and joint Turkish-U.S. patrols. However, Ankara complained for months that there were delays in the implementation of the roadmap, until U.S. President Donald Trump decided to withdraw his country’s 2,000 troops from Syria. 

Since then, Turkey has been negotiating with Washington and Moscow for the establishment of a safe zone to be controlled by the Turkish military. Moscow pointed to a 1998 agreement between Turkey and Syria, in which the Syrian government pledged to prohibit PKK activities on its territory, as a possible solution, saying that the territorial integrity of the country should be protected.

Yet Trump’s decision to withdraw forces has raised concerns among his military advisers, as it would leave Kurdish forces, a key U.S. ally against the Islamic State (ISIS), vulnerable to a Turkish assault

The U.S. administration last week said it would leave some 400 troops in Syria and step up efforts to bring together an international force of 2,000 troops with the help of NATO, to ensure security in the region.

Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on Monday began a six-country tour in the Middle East, including a visit Turkey on Wednesday to meet with Erdoğan. “The meeting will mainly focus on economical and regional problems as President Trump said to me. We also raised similar demands,” Erdoğan said in relation to Kushner’s visit.