Turkish foreign minister says Turkey will clear Kurdish forces east of Euphrates

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Sunday said Turkey was determined to clear northeast Syria of Kurdish militants regardless of the outcome of ongoing talks with the United States, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

"We say this about the east of Euphrates; either we will clear the region of the terrorists together, Turkey will enter there and clear by ourselves," Çavuşoğlu said.

Turkish foreign minister also said Turkey would not allow its agreement with the United States over the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria to follow the same course as a similar deal signed with Washington last year on the Kurdish-controlled Syrian town of Manbij, where the continued presence of Kurdish militants has frustrated Ankara.

Ankara and Washington agreed on June 4, 2018, a Manbij “roadmap” to secure the withdrawal of Syrian Kurds from Manbij to the east of the Euphrates and to establish a new city council.

However, Turkey has long criticised the United States for stalling the process and failing to meet its deadline. Ankara had expected the Manbij roadmap to be completed by the end of 2018.

The Manbij roadmap was signed as part of Turkey’s efforts to clear the area south of its border of the Kurdish-led People Protection Units (YPG), which forms the backbone of U.S. led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS).

Turkey’s Defence Ministry on Wednesday announced another agreement in the same context, which promises to establish a joint operation centre in Turkey to manage long-standing plans to create a safe zone in northern Syria clear of fighters from the YPG and its affiliates.

Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist group due to its ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been fighting inside Turkey for more than three decades.