Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly issued a “final warning” on Friday to U.S.-backed fighters to pull out of areas in northern Syria east of the Euphrates river.
The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the dominant group and leader of the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) considered terrorists by Ankara, control nearly all of the territory east of the Euphrates, including regions along Syria’s border with Turkey.
Instead of idling around in Manbij, we are determined to turn our focus and energy to the east of the Euphrates. We are carrying out studies in line with our own operation plans, and signs of them will soon be visible in the field. This should be regarded as our final warning.
The Turkish president has repeatedly accused U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration of delaying a deal to withdraw the YPG from Manbij, located in northern Syria close to the Turkish border.
However, Gen. Joseph Votel, the top American commander in the Middle East, recently indicated that “most” of the YPG fighters have left Manbij. Washington and Ankara reached the Manbij deal in June to avert clashes between the YPG and Turkish-allied opposition fighters.
Under the deal, the YPG militiamen are expected to leave Manbij and Turkish and American troops are to maintain security and stability in and around the town.
On Friday, Erdogan also blasted the United States for backing the YPG, considered by Ankara to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
Turkey’s Daily Sabah reported:
Erdoğan also slammed the U.S. and their flow of weapons and supplies to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) terror group, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK which is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU and NATO. The PKK has been fighting the Turkish state for the last 40 years in a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives. Erdoğan said that it is not reasonable for the U.S. to choose a dark organization over Turkey.
U.S. support for the Syrian Kurds, who played a key role in the liberation of Raqqa from the Islamic State, has strained the relationship between NATO allies the United States and Turkey.
This week, Military Times reported that an American military patrol in the Syrian region of Manbij took fire from Turkey-allied forces in the area on October 15. It is unclear whether the attack resulted in any casualties.
Despite the alleged tensions, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the state-run Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that joint patrols between Turkey and the United States are expected to begin “soon” in Manbij.
Erdogan’s comments on Friday came on the eve of the meeting of world leaders in Istanbul featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for the Turkish president, told Anadolu that the discussions “will focus on formulas for a political solution in Syria,” Bloomberg noted.