Turkey warns that it will move to push the US-backed Kurdish militants away from Syria’s Manbij if it does not reach an agreement with the US on a plan to remove them from the northern border town.
“If this plan is not realized, the only option left will be clearing away terrorists. This is not just valid for Syria, but also for Iraq,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in interview with state-run Anadolu news agency on Thursday.
He noted that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump are scheduled to hold a phone conversation with regard to the issue on Thursday.
On March 13, Cavusoglu had said that Turkey and the United States would decide on a plan to oversee withdrawal of Kurdish militants from the northern Syria city of Manbij, but said Turkish forces would carry out a military operation if the discussions fail.
Turkey and its allied militants with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched the so-called “Operation Olive Branch” against the nearby Syrian region of Afrin on January 20.
The offensive came after the United States said it sought to create a 30,000-strong force near the Turkish border in Syria with the help of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militant group, which is mainly comprised of Kurdish forces of Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG).
Later, Ankara threatened to move as far as Manbij where American forces are also present.
He also said Ankara would monitor the return of weapons given to the YPG by the United States.
The US’s arms and training support for the YPG, whom Turkey ties to the anti-Ankara Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) separatist group, has long been a bone of contention between the two sides.
The Syrian government has already condemned the Turkish offensive against Afrin as an act of aggression. Over 280 civilians have lost their lives since the offensive began, according to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).