Turkey vows to eliminate ISIL from Syria after Manbij attack
Amid the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, Turkey will press the fight against ISIL to clear it from Syrian soil, Turkey’s president has said.
"Turkey will continue the fight against Daesh and eliminate this terrorist group in Syria," Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told on Jan. 17 a joint press conference with visiting Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in the capital Ankara.
On the Jan. 16 suicide attack in Manbij, Syria, which reports say killed four U.S. soldiers, Erdoğan said that he doesn't believe U.S. President Donald Trump will back down in the face of this attack, as this would mean victory for ISIL.
He added that the attack could be meant to dissuade the U.S. from leaving Syria.
Manbij has been held by U.S.-backed fighters allied to the YPG since they took it from ISIL in 2016.
It is located near areas held by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and by anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkey, which lists the YPG as a terrorist organization.
The attack came after Trump's surprise announcement last month of the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
The pullout decision came during a phone call with Erdoğan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the civil war-torn country.
Turkey, Croatia: 'Strong cooperation'
Erdoğan also touted Turkey's ties with Croatia, as the countries enjoy strong cooperation.
He said that Turkey and Croatia vowed to boost economic and trade relations and signed a cooperation deal in the field of culture and art for 2019-2021 to cement cultural and person-to-person ties.
Erdoğan praised Croatia for supporting Turkey's EU membership process, adding that he believes this support will be stronger during Croatia's EU term presidency in 2020.
Erdoğan said in 2017 bilateral trade rose 29 percent to reach $531 million, and totaled $575 million in the first 11 months of 2018 alone.
"I hope this figure will hit $600 million by the end of 2018. We have another goal, which is $1 billion. I hope we can approach this target a bit more in 2019," he added.
Grabar-Kitarovic said that Croatia wants to reach the $1 billion target in bilateral trade, saying the countries should deepen their economic ties.
Grabar-Kitarovic called the ties between the countries “excellent,” adding that Croatia will support Turkey on its road to the EU.
Peace in the region
Separately, Erdoğan addressed the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which ended the Bosnian War.
"The Dayton Agreement should be revisited, as it didn't generate a solution for Bosnia and Herzegovina's future," he said.
In November 1995, Bosniaks -- amid international pressure -- stopped the war and signed the Dayton Agreement, bringing peace to the country.
Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities -- the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska.
The accord, initiated at Wright-Patterson U.S. Air Force base near Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 21, 1995, ended a brutal civil war in Bosnia that resulted in around 100,000 deaths over three-and-a-half years.
Erdoğan said that the UN should come into play again, and called for stronger steps.
"There are serious problems for Bosnia and Herzegovina as there's an eight-month term presidency and there isn't any proper army. We hope Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs will be live in solidarity," he said, adding that he hopes Bosnia and Herzegovina will live in peace again.
Grabar-Kitarovic stated that Croatia has done the most to support Bosnia and Herzegovina's integrity and prosperity and there should be dialogue for a solution in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"We also support Bosnia and Herzegovina's access to the EU," she said.
With a possible Brexit looming in March, Turkey’s talks with Britain are set to avoid any negative affect on Turkish-U.K. trade and economic relations, said Erdoğan.
On Jan. 15 British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered the heaviest parliamentary defeat of any sitting government after MPs voted in an overwhelming 432-202 vote against her Brexit deal.
The U.K. is set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019 after more than 40 years of membership.