Erdoğan: Turkey to wait only ‘a few weeks’ for Kurdish militia to be removed from Manbij

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Armoured vehicles and soldiers of Turkish Armed Forces start to patrol between northern Syrian city of Manbij and Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield area on June 18, 2018. AFP PHOTOS

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Turkey would only wait a few weeks for militants to be removed from the northern Syrian town of Manbij, Reuters reported.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is spearheaded by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), has controlled Manbij since 2016.

After months of disagreement, Ankara and Washington agreed in June on a roadmap that would see the YPG removed from the town. Turkey has repeatedly expressed its frustration that the implementation of the plan has been delayed.

US President Donald Trump has warned Turkey not to attack Kurdish fighters in Syria and last month threatened economic devastation if Ankara attacked the YPG militia.

Erdoğan also said he had not yet seen an acceptable plan from US for the creation of a safe zone in northeastern Syria, three weeks after Trump suggested establishing the zone.

“There is no satisfactory plan that is put before us concretely yet,” Erdoğan told a parliamentary meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). “Of course we are loyal to our agreements, our promise is a promise. But our patience is not limitless.”

Turkey wants to set up the safe zone with logistical support from allies and says it should be cleared of the US-backed Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist group.

Erdoğan said that Turkey did not have to ask anyone for permission to implement its own plans in the area. “No threat can make us turn from this path, including a sanctions list,” he said.

The safe zone will be an issue at a meeting on Wednesday in the United States of ministers from a coalition of countries fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will attend the talks.

In December, Trump confounded his own national security team with a surprise decision to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, declaring that the ISIL had been defeated there.

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