Erdogan calls on US to quit Manbij

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


Turkey attacks Greece's decision to grant 2 Turkish officers asylum

Updated 54 min 7 sec ago
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Turkey attacks Greece's decision to grant 2 Turkish officers asylum

  • A group of eight Turkish officers escaped to neighbouring Greece after the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
  • Turkey says they should be extradited because they are "terrorists", but the requests were rejected by the Greek Supreme Court.

ANKARA: Turkey on Thursday hit back at a Greek court's decision to grant political refugee status to two Turkish officers who fled to Greece after a 2016 failed coup, accusing Athens of protecting "terrorists."
A group of eight Turkish officers escaped to neighbouring Greece after the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey says they should be extradited because they are "terrorists", but the requests were rejected by the Greek Supreme Court, stoking tensions between Ankara and Athens.
Greece's top administrative court, the Council of State, made the decision to grant asylum on Wednesday after rejecting an appeal lodged by the Greek government.
The Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement that Greece "protects and shelters putschists" as officials strongly condemned the decision.
Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik said the Greek legal system has "ruled to protect the terrorists who attempted a coup to overthrow Turkish democracy".
He said the decision was the "most embarrassing ruling possible for any country".
The top administrative Greek court on Wednesday found in favour of the co-pilot of the helicopter which flew the men over the border, and the decision also applies to another one of the men.
A Greek judicial source said the Greek government has launched an appeal against the second ruling -- the result of which will apply to the next six officers.
"We hope that the Greek judiciary will refrain from repeating the same mistakes," the Turkish foreign ministry said.
Turkey claims the soldiers are members of the movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of ordering the attempted putsch.
The eight officers deny any involvement in the coup attempt.
Relations between the two NATO allies have been further strained after the pre-trial detention of two Greek soldiers since March.
The soldiers were arrested after crossing the border into Turkey but claim they got lost in the fog. A Turkish court on Tuesday ruled the soldiers should remain in jail.
The number of Turks seeking asylum in Greece increased tenfold between 2016 and 2017, reaching 1,827.