Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag warns that military operation in Syria expand to strategic Manbij city in the west of the Euphrates.
If the PKK/YPG terror group does not leave Syria’s Manbij, Turkey will move there and towards east of Euphrates River, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Sunday.
In remarks made to CNNTurk, Bozdag, who is also a spokesman for the government, said the PKK/YPG terrorists had to leave Manbij, a strategic city west of the Euphrates in northern Syria.
“If they PKK/YPG do not leave Manbij, we will move into Manbij and towards the east of Euphrates,” he said.
Bozdag added that 932 PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists had been “neutralised” since the beginning of the Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin region.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralised” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Bozdag said the operation would continue until terrorism, a threat to both Turkey and its neighbours, was completely eradicated.
“It [the operation] will last as long as it is necessary. This is a long-running fight,” he said.
The deputy prime minister also gave information about the casualties in the operation, saying so far, 13 Turkish troops had been “martyred and 39 injured.”
He added 30 FSA fighters had also been killed, and 158 others wounded.
Bozdag also expressed his “extreme displeasure” over the possibility of terror groups using US-supplied weapons against NATO ally Turkey.
He said the US had delivered some 5,000 trucks and 2,000 freighters loaded with weapons had been provided to PYD and YPG.
“This is unacceptable and inexplicable.”
Manbij is located at 30 kilometres south of Turkish border. The territory between the Turkish border and Manbij is controlled by the FSA.
The city is currently controlled by the YPG, the PKK’s Syrian affiliate, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the European Union.
Manbij is one of the several areas that were captured from Daesh in 2016 by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a YPG-dominated ground force that was created by the USA.
Durinn the same period, along with the Free Syrian Army, Turkey began the Operation Euphrates Shield, its first military operation in northern Syria to defeat Daesh.
The operation held strategic importance, as it took place between Manbij and Afrin and broke apart a possible PKK/YPG-controlled corridor that would have posed a threat to Turkish national security.
Former US President Barack Obama had once promised Turkey that the PKK/YPG would not take control of Manbij after defeating Daesh, and that the PKK/YPG would withdraw to the east of the Euphrates river after the fight had concluded.
But Washington failed to keep its promise there and recently the US-led coalition announced plans to set up a 30,000-strong border force composed of PKK-related YPG members, along Syria’s border with Iraq and Turkey.
On January 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists from Afrin region and now Ankara says its troops will move to Manbij.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation in Afrin aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from oppression and cruelty of terrorists.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria’s territorial integrity.