Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Işık said on Sunday that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Syrian regime have been cooperating on the northern Syrian city of Manbij, the state-run TRTHaber reported.
“The whole world has started to see how DEAŞ [ISIL], the PYD and the [Assad] regime are cooperating on Manbij,” said Işık during a program in Kocaeli organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“One of the most important priorities of Turkey is to prevent the PYD, which is close to committing a genocide against the Kurds, from creating a territory. It will absolutely not be allowed to create a sovereign territory. Turkey will at all costs not allow the PYD to unite the cantons [Afrin, Kobani, Jazira],” said Defense Minister Işık.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced at a press conference in Ankara on Feb. 28 that Turkey’s next target in Syria would be Manbij, which has become a subject of disagreement between Washington and Ankara as Turkey demands that Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces, the military wing of the PYD, leave the north Syrian town.
“We told this to our American friends. The PYD and YPG should move to the east of the Euphrates; the area should be left to the locals of Manbij,” said Erdoğan.
“Now it is time for Manbij, which belongs to the Arabs, not the PYD or YPG.”
Following Erdoğan’s statement, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) shared photos of female Kurdish militia members, part of YPG forces in Syria fighting ISIL, training for the takeover of the terrorist group’s stronghold of Raqqa.
Turkey says the PYD and YPG are the Syrian offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Turkish government considers the YPG crossing to the western bank of the Euphrates, where Manbij sits, a “red line.”
As part of Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels drive ISIL from the border city of Jarabulus in late August, in a dramatic escalation of its involvement in the Syrian civil war. Seventy-four Turkish soldiers have been killed during the operation since August of last year.