Turkey-backed forces besiege al-Bab, eyeing Manbij, says Erdoğan
AA photoTurkey-backed Syrian rebels have besieged the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-held northern Syrian town of al-Bab from the west and have set their eyes on Manbij for their next offensive, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Nov. 22.
“We have now reached al-Bab; we have also encircled and besieged al-Bab from the west. This is not enough. From there we will also head to Manbij,” said Erdoğan at a security conference in Ankara on Nov. 22.
“Why are we going to go to Manbij? Not because we are keen on it. There are PYD and YPG in Manbij. They should also leave [Manbij] and go further to the east,” said Erdoğan, referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG).
Turkey sees both the PYD and the YPG as offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and regards the two organizations to be terrorists as well.
The issue divides Turkey and the United States, as the latter regards the PYD and YPG as reliable partners in the U.S.-led anti-ISIL fight in Syria.
“We said this [withdrawal of YPG and PYD from Manbij]. They said ‘they will leave;’ we said ‘they must leave.’ Until now, they say some of them have left. We want the PYD and YPG to fully leave that place,” Erdoğan said.
Washington and the PYD have said multiple times that the PYD and YPG have either left the city or would leave the city soon.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said it was hard to imagine the resumption of the political process in Syria without the Kurds.
“Another mandatory condition without which it is hard to count on the successful resumption of the political process [is the Kurds],” Gatilov was quoted as saying on Nov. 21 by Russia’s Sputnik. “Kurds should be included in the negotiating process. Kurds are a real military and political force having control of a considerable part of Syrian territory, which actively participates in the fight against terrorism.”