Turkish forces will enter the Syrian town of Manbij if the United States does not remove Kurdish militia located there, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
Erdoğan said earlier this week that Turkey would launch a new operation within days against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which controls swathes of Syria’s northern border region, in what will be Turkey’s third military campaign in Syria in two years.
Ankara considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.
Washington backs the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
Turkey has complained about the slow implementation of a deal with Washington to pull YPG members out of Manbij, which lies in mainly Arab territory west of the Euphrates, back to the eastern bank of the river.
“Manbij is a place where Arabs live, but [the US] has given the area to the terrorist organization,” Erdoğan told members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in a speech in Istanbul. “Now we are saying that you should cleanse, remove them, or else we will enter Manbij. I am speaking very clearly.”
The United States, which has set up observation posts on the Syrian side of the border, has warned Turkey against a new incursion and said the newly constructed positions would help deter any security threat against Turkey coming from Syria.