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Nov 01 2018

Turkish defence minister says Syrian Kurdish forces will be buried in their own trenches

Syrian Kurdish forces around the town of Manbij will be buried in their own trenches, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar warned on Thursday, blaming the United States for failing to make them withdraw, Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Tensions have risen between Turkey and the United States in recent weeks as Turkish leaders have renewed pledges to launch a new offensive against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish force that controls most of northeastern Syria.

The Turkish government says the YPG and its political arm, the PYD, is a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been fighting inside Turkey since 1984. But the United States arms and trains the Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the YPG, to fight Islamic State.

Turkey and the United States in June reached a roadmap agreement on Manbij, where U.S. forces are based, for the YPG to withdraw and U.S. and Turkish troops to patrol the outskirts of the town. Turkey says the YPG has not withdrawn from Manbij, but the Syrian Kurdish group says it has and handed over control of the town to an allied local militia.

“The ultimate aim of the roadmap is to end the presence of PKK/PYD/YPG as it was promised by the Americans and to return the region to its real owners,” Akar told parliament’s Planning and Budget Committee.

“Although the United States promised to lead the withdrawal of PKK/PYD/YPG, these terrorist organisations are still digging new trenches as they did in Afrin. The terrorist organisation should know that they will be buried to their own trenches when the time comes,” Akar said.

Turkish troops and their Syrian Islamist allies seized the northwestern Syrian district of Afrin from the YPG in March after a two-month offensive. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said this week that Turkish forces would soon begin operations aimed at YPG-held areas in northeastern Syria.