Turkey to US: Drop PYD, let’s free Raqqa together
ANKARAPresident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told U.S. President Barack Obama to exclude the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) from the upcoming Raqqa operation to oust jihadists, reiterating Ankara’s determination to continue its military offensive toward al-Bab, Raqqa and Manbij in northern Syria.
The two leaders conducted a lengthy phone conversation early Oct. 27, discussing the fight against ISIL in Syria and in Iraq, a written statement issued by the Turkish presidency said, noting that the pair voiced support for the territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq.
Erdoğan also said the current operations in Mosul to rid the Iraqi city of ISIL should be conducted with sensitivity.
Obama said he was pleased with the dialogue process between Turkey and Iraq regarding Ankara’s participation in the anti-ISIL coalition and appreciated Turkey’s contribution to the anti-ISIL fight, especially for the use of Syrian Free Syrian Army (FSA) to clear ISIL elements from the Turkish border.
The U.S. president also called for close cooperation in the fight against ISIL, the White House said in a statement. “Obama noted the need for close coordination between the United States and Turkey to build on these successes and to apply sustained pressure on ISIL in Syria to reduce threats to the United States, Turkey and elsewhere.”
In addition, the U.S. president called for more dialogue on what he called “the appropriate level and form of Turkey’s participation in the counter-ISIL coalition’s efforts in Iraq.”
Turkey to advance on Manbij, Raqqa
Erdoğan gave more details about his conversation with Obama in an address to the families of fallen soldiers and veterans on Oct. 27. “Now we’re advancing toward al-Bab because it’s one of their important centers. They will have to abandon al-Bab as well and then we’ll head to Manbij and Raqqa. I had a long conversation with Mr. Obama last night and I told him that we’ll take these steps,” he said.
“I also told him this: We don’t need terror organizations like the PYD and the YPG in Raqqa. The PYD and PKK are the same. ‘Let’s together oust DAESH from Raqqa together. We have this power,’ we told them. What are they? They’re a simple terror organization,” the president said.
Turkish, American defense minister meet
In the meantime, the Turkish and American defense ministers, Fikri Işık and Ash Carter, met in Brussels on the sidelines of the NATO ministerial meeting and discussed the ongoing anti-ISIL fight in Iraq and Syria.
Işık told reporters on Oct. 27 that Turkey was calling on the U.S. to change its stance toward the PYD and to embrace the Free Syrian Army as the local ground force to free Raqqa. “We will be insistent on this issue up to the end,” he said, warning the U.S. that any attempt by the PYD to change the demography of Arab-dominated areas would cause severe results.
Işık said he observed a more flexible U.S. approach on Turkey’s demands while informing that both countries’ militaries would begin working together to coordinate military plans on the Raqqa operation and the Euphrates Shield Operation.
Işık: We want more dialogue with Iraq
Işık and Carter also discussed Turkey’s participation in the Mosul operation, with the latter calling on both parties to reduce the tone of public statements against each other. “We are willing to engage in more dialogue with Iraq. Iraq is our neighbor and tension between the two countries will serve neither. We are aware of this. We are of the opinion that close cooperation between Turkey and Iraq is necessary and beneficial for the region. On this, we thank and appreciate the contribution provided by the U.S.,” he said.
The U.S. has been leaning on Ankara and Baghdad to reduce the tension and to find a way for Turkey to participate in the ongoing Mosul operation.
Sinjar not to become second Kandil
Another important issue for Turkey is the PKK’s alleged plans to establish a new regional headquarters in Sinjar. “We’ll continue to pursue this struggle in Kirkuk, Mosul, Telafer and Sinjar. Why? Because Sinjar is about to become a new Kandil. We won’t allow this,” Erdoğan said.
Kandil is a mountain in northern Iraq where the PKK has had its headquarters since the early 1990s. Turkey’s government claims the PKK is moving camps to Sinjar.