Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday vowed to conduct a military offensive in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, claiming that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) are still present in the area, the CNN Türk reported.
The YPG, Syrian Kurdish militants backed by the US who had previously been running the city, was supposed to withdraw its militants in 90 days according to a roadmap agreed by the US and Turkey in June.
“They promised us that they’d leave in 90 days, but they didn’t. Now they are digging new tunnels in Manbij. We buried them their old tunnels. That means ‘we dug our graves, come and bury us.’ We’ll enter there, too,” Erdoğan said during a speech at an opening ceremony in Isparta province.
Turkish authorities believe the YPG is the Syrian branch of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, which has been carrying out an insurgency against the Turkish army in the Southeast since the 1980s in a struggle for Kurds’ political and cultural rights.
The fight against the YPG has become a significant part of Turkey’s Syria policy in recent years after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government halted peace negotiations with the PKK in 2015.
After the roadmap was announced by the two countries, Turkish and American soldiers were patrolling the Syrian city separately to keep YPG militants out.
Kurdish militants reportedly vacated the city just after the Turkey-US agreement.
US soldiers recently began to train Turkish troops for joint patrol missions.