Erdogan calls on US to quit Manbij

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018
0

Erdogan calls on US to quit Manbij

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the US to withdraw any American forces from the Syrian town of Manbij, vowing Turkish troops would expand a cross-border military operation to the key strategic hub.
Erdogan blamed Washington for the presence in Manbij of fighters from the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political wing, which Ankara sees as terror groups.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched a major operation aimed at ousting YPG forces from their enclave of the northwestern town of Afrin. However, moving east to Manbij — where unlike Afrin there is a US military presence — would mark a major escalation.
Accusing Washington of breaking past promises, Erdogan said: “They (Americans) told us they will pull out of Manbij. They said they will not stay in Manbij... Why don’t you just go?”
“Who did you bring there? PYD. Who did you bring there? YPG. Who did you bring there? PKK,” he said.
Turkey considers YPG as Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency since 1984 and is designated a terrorist outfit by Ankara and its Western allies.
“And then you tell us not to come to Manbij! We will come to Manbij to return it to its original owners,” he added.
Turkey considers towns like Manbij to be originally Arab-majority territory whose ethnic balance was upset in favor of the Kurds during the seven-year civil war.
Turkey’s Western allies, including the US, do not classify the YPG as a terror group and have worked closely with its fighters in the battle against Daesh.
In 2016, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance dominated by the YPG, captured Manbij from Daesh.
In a show of anger at Turkey’s NATO ally, Erdogan asked the US what it was doing in Syria in the first place.
“You do not have a border, you are not a neighbor (of Syria),” he said. “What’s your business there? We have a 911km border.”
Erdogan also accused US President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama of failing to tell the truth about US support for the YPG.
“They told us many things but unfortunately they did not tell the truth,” Erdogan said. “Mr. Obama did not tell the truth and now Mr. Trump is heading down the same path.”


New envoy stresses need for UN-backed solution to Syria war

Updated 17 January 2019
0

New envoy stresses need for UN-backed solution to Syria war

  • Pedersen is the fourth UN envoy to seek a solution to Syria's conflict
  • Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since the war started with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011

DAMASCUS: The new UN envoy to Syria ended his first visit to the war-torn country Thursday, stressing the need for a UN-brokered political solution to the eight-year conflict.
Geir Pedersen, a seasoned Norwegian diplomat, concluded his three-day visit and headed to the Lebanese capital Beirut, a UN source told AFP.
The new envoy on Twitter late Wednesday said he had a "constructive meeting" with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem during his stay in Damascus.
During it, he stressed the need for a "Syrian-led and -owned political solution facilitated by the UN", he added.
Pedersen, who started his new job last week, is the fourth UN envoy to seek a solution to Syria's conflict, after endless rounds of failed UN-brokered peace talks.
In recent years, UN-led efforts have been overshadowed by separate negotiations led by regime allies Russia and Iran, as well as rebel backer Turkey.
After Damascus, Pederson said he was off to meet the Syrian Negotiations Committee, Syria's main opposition group.
But he "agreed to come back to Damascus on a regular basis to discuss commonalities and progress on points of disagreement", he added.
On Tuesday, Muallem expressed Syria's "readiness to cooperate with him... in his mission to facilitate Syrian-Syrian dialogue with the objective of reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis", a foreign ministry statement said.
Pederson takes over from Staffan de Mistura, a Swiss-Italian diplomat who stepped down at the end of last year over "personal reasons".
Officials in the government of President Bashar al-Assad had set the tone for the new envoy's tenure shortly after his appointment was announced in October.
"Syria will cooperate with the new UN envoy Geir Pedersen provided he avoids the methods of his predecessor," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad said.
De Mistura ended his four-year tenure with an abortive push to form a committee tasked with drawing up a post-war constitution.
Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since the war started with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011.
With key military backing from Russia, Assad's forces have retaken large parts of Syria from rebels and extremists, and now control almost two-thirds of the country.
A drive to bring the Syrian regime back into the Arab fold also seems underway, with the UAE reopening their embassy in Damascus last month.