Jan 17 2018

Turkish offensive in Syria may continue east of Euphrates - Turkish FM

Turkey’s operations again Syrian Kurdish forces in northern Syria will not be confined to the northwestern province of Afrin, but will also be directed at the Kurdish-held town of Manbij and areas east of the River Euphrates, Turkish state news agency Anadolu quoted the foreign minister as saying.

Turkey says it is gearing up to attack Afrin, held by People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Ankara says is the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.

“Turkey’s precautions against the YPG/PKK cannot be limited to Afrin alone. There is also Manbij and east of the Euphrates river,” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan this week said he would strangle at birth a 30,000-strong border security force the United States has started to train in Syria made up mainly of YPG fighters. U.S. forces backed the YPG as the most reliable fighting force in Syria to combat Islamic State (ISIS), but Washington denied having reached a deal with the militia’s political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), or the PKK, which it lists as a terrorist organisation.

"The U.S. has previously stated that the PYD/PKK was not their strategic partner … they were only working together to defeat ISIS,” Çavuşoğlu said. "As we can see, we have so many reasons to be sceptical, and we have enough reasons to take our own precautions."

The United States has been working with YPG forces east of the Euphrates and has set up a number of military bases there.

Çavuşoğlu said the United States had broken its promises to devolve ISIS-controlled areas captured by the YPG to local, democratic forms of administration, including the extreme jihadists’ former capital, Raqqa.

"The promises made on Manbij and Raqqa have not been kept. In the same way, the promises about the steps that need to be taken after Raqqa have also not been kept.”