Turkey will enter Syria’s Manbij if US doesn’t remove YPG fighters: Erdogan

Erdogan, in a speech in Istanbul, said Turkey was determined to bring peace to the area east of the Euphrates river in Syria. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 December 2018
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Turkey will enter Syria’s Manbij if US doesn’t remove YPG fighters: Erdogan

  • Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)
  • Ankara and Washington have long been at odds over Syria, where the US has backed YPG

ISTANBUL: Turkish forces will enter the Syrian town of Manbij if the United States does not remove YPG Kurdish fighters, and it will also target Kurdish-controlled areas further east, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
Erdogan said this week that Turkey would launch a new operation within days against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia which controls swathes of Syria’s northern border region, in what will be Turkey’s third military campaign in Syria in two years.
Ankara and Washington have long been at odds in Syria, where the United States has backed the YPG in the fight against the Daesh group. Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Turkey has complained over the slow implementation of a deal with Washington to pull YPG Kurdish fighters out of Manbij, which lies in mainly Arab territory west of the Euphrates, back to the eastern bank of the river.
“Manbij is a place where Arabs live, but they have surrendered the area to the terror organization,” Erdogan told members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in a speech in Istanbul. “Now we are saying that you should cleanse, remove them, or else we will enter Manbij. I am speaking very clearly.”
Erdogan said Turkey was also determined to bring “peace and security” to areas east of the Euphrates, where the YPG controls an area stretching more than 400 km (250 miles) along the border toward Iraq.
He compared the promised military campaign to an incursion into northern Syria in 2016 and one earlier this year by Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies, who still hold territory there seized from YPG and Islamic State fighters.
A spokesman for the Syrian rebels said on Thursday that up to 15,000 fighters are prepared to support Turkey’s latest operation.
The United States, which has set up observation posts on the Syrian side of the border, has warned Turkey against a new incursion and said the newly constructed positions would help deter any security threat against Turkey coming from Syria.
Erdogan, however, said Turkey had waited long enough to act against the YPG militia, which it says is indistinguishable from PKK militants who have waged an insurgency against the state in southeastern Turkey for 34 years.
“We are not only providing security for our country when taking steps in Syria but we are also protecting the honor of people,” he said.
Kurdish commander Mazloum Kobanin said on Thursday the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are spearheaded by the YPG, will respond strongly to any attack. 


Damaged Japanese tanker arrives at UAE anchorage

Updated 10 sec ago
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Damaged Japanese tanker arrives at UAE anchorage

DUBAI: A Japanese tanker, attacked in the Gulf in an incident that sparked a new standoff between Washington and Tehran, “arrived safely” Sunday at an anchorage off the UAE, its management said.
The Kokuka Courageous was carrying highly flammable methanol through the Gulf of Oman on Thursday when it and the Norwegian-operated Front Altair were rocked by explosions.
The US and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of responsibility.
“Kokuka Courageous has arrived safely at the designated anchorage at Sharjah,” an emirate neighboring Dubai, the vessel’s Singapore-based BSM Ship Management said in a statement Sunday.
The crew, who remained on board, were “safe and well,” it said, adding that a damage assessment and preparations for transferring the ship’s cargo would start “once the port authorities have completed their standard security checks and formalities.”
BSM Ship Management had said earlier Kokuka Courageous was heading toward an anchorage on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, facing the Gulf of Oman.
The other ship, the Front Altair, has left Iran’s territorial waters, multiple sources said Saturday.
It was “heading toward the Fujairah-Khor Fakkan area in the United Arab Emirates,” the ports chief of Iran’s southern province of Hormozgan told the semi-official news agency ISNA.
A spokeswoman for Frontline Management, the Norwegian company which owns the ship, said “all 23 crew members of the tanker departed Iran” and flew to Dubai on Saturday.
The US military on Friday released grainy footage it said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an “unexploded limpet mine” from the Japanese vessel.
Tehran has vehemently denied any involvement.
Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the strategic Hormuz Strait in a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the United States.
Doing so would disrupt oil tankers traveling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes.