Erdoğan, Trump discuss Syria as Turkey warns of new military operation
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump have held a phone call on Syria.
"Bilateral issues and the most recent developments in Syria, including security issues and counter-terrorism efforts, were discussed," the Turkish Presidency said in a statement, noting that the phone call was held early Dec. 14.
According to the statement, Erdoğan shared with Trump Turkey’s "legitimate security concerns caused by the presence and actions of the terrorist organization PKK/PYD/YPG."
The two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination within the context of Syria, the statement added.
Turkish forces will enter the Syrian town of Manbij if the U.S. does not remove YPG members, Erdoğan said earlier on Dec. 14.
Turkish president said this week that Turkey would launch a new operation within days against the U.S.-backed 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 as the Syrian branch of the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S.
Washington says it backs the YPG in the fight against ISIL in Syria.
Turkey has complained over 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 they have surrendered the area to the terror organisation,” Erdoğan told members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in a speech in Istanbul on Dec. 14. “Now we are saying that you should cleanse, remove them, or else we will enter Manbij. I am speaking very clearly.”
Erdoğan said Turkey was also determined to bring “peace and security” to areas east of the Euphrates, where the YPG controls an area stretching more than 400 km (250 miles) along the border towards Iraq.
A spokesman for the Ankara-backed Syrian rebels said on Dec. 13 that up to 15,000 fighters are prepared to support Turkey’s latest operation.
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.
“We are not only providing security for our country when taking steps in Syria but we are also protecting the honour of people,” Erdoğan said.
The Turkish president also said Dec. 14 that his country’s anti-terror operations in northern Iraq will continue.
“We will no longer tolerate a single day of delay,” he added.
Erdoğan said that Turkey conducted airstrikes in Sinjar and Mount Karajak regions of northern Iraq late Dec. 13, adding such operations will continue.