Turkey has called on the United States to withdraw its military personnel from northern Syria’s Manbij region after announcing Ankara’s plan to push Syrian Kurdish fighters from the area, according to local media.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said on Saturday that it was “necessary for them [US] to immediately withdraw from Manbij” as well as take “more concrete steps rather than words” to end its support for the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) armed group.
“The US must cut ties with the terrorist organisation,” he told reporters in Turkey’s Mediterranean province, Antalya, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.
The remarks came a day after, according to the Turkish presidency, US National Security Advisor HR McMaster assured Ankara in a phone call on Friday that Washington would no longer give weapons to YPG, Hurriyet reported.
Turkey considers YPG, the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey. Ankara says pushing Syrian Kurdish fighters away from northern Syria is essential for Turkey’s national security.
On January 20, Turkey launched a military operation along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – a Syrian rebel group – to drive YPG from Syria’s northwestern district of Afrin.
On Friday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish troops could push YPG all the way east to the frontier with Iraq, including Manbij, Hurriyet reported.
According to a statement published by the Turkish armed forces on Saturday, about 394 fighters were “neutralised” since the start of the Afrin operation.
“340 targets of the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party], KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union], PYD/YPG [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party/People’s protection Units], and ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] terror organisations have been destroyed,” the army said.
It also said that three Turkish soldiers and 13 members of the allied FSA were killed in the operation.
Also on Saturday, a rocket was fired from Afrin hit Turkey’s border province of Kilis, injuring two people after hitting a five-storey building in the neighbourhood of 7 Aralik, according to Turkey’s state-run news agency, Anadolu Agency.