Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a meeting of his ruling AK Party on Friday that Turkey must “cleanse” the mainly Kurdish Efrin canton of the PYD political party and its YPG militia.
“What we must do is to cleanse Afrin of terror organizations, the PYD and the YPG,” Erdogan said.
“We have been seriously disappointed by the fact that America has not kept many of its promises to us. We don’t want to face the same situation again in Afrin,” he said, an apparent reference to the United States’ train and equip program with the Coalition partner Syrian Democratic Forces.
YPG fighters make up the bulk of the SDF troops which have long battled ISIS in northern and eastern Syria with Coalition support.
Turkey views the predominantly Kurdish YPG and its linked PYD political party as extensions of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency mainly in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish southwest. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, among others, but the YPG is not so designated by the U.S. or E.U.
Turkey has long railed at U.S. support for the YPG which Erdogan views as violating the alliance between the countries.
Erdogan cited Raqqa, Manbij and Deir Ezzor as places that the YPG did not leave after their capture from ISIS.
“Although the previous U.S. government said ‘Don’t worry, neither the PYD nor the YPG will remain in these places,’ they have not kept these promises. Unfortunately, the current administration also tells us it is in cooperation with the SDF, the new name of the YPG. They shouldn’t do this. We were here before them and we perfectly know who is who in this region,” Erdogan said.
“Afrin is much more important for us because it has a border with us. Around 50 percent of the population is Arab. Our Arab brothers who live in camps [in Turkey] are returning to their homes. In one part [of Afrin] there are Kurds and in another one there are Turkmens,” Erdogan said.
Turkish officials have previously said that Efrin would be on its agenda.
Turkey expects Russia to withdraw from Efrin
In an earlier statement, Erdogan said that Russia said it would withdraw its forces from Efrin, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“Russia made us promises about the withdrawal from Afrin at the G20 Summit in Hamburg [in July],” he said.
According to Hurriyet, Erdogan also said that Russia may tolerate moves from Turkey in response to “threats and provocations” from Efrin. “The protection of the demographic structure in Afrin is among our sensitivities,” he said.
Erdogan said significant progress has been made in Turkey’s military operation in Syria’s Idlib province due to cooperation between Turkey, Russia and Iran.
The three countries are to hold a series of high-level summits in Sochi next week to discuss the situation in Idlib and Efrin. The foreign ministers of the three states will meet on November 21 followed by a meeting between Erdogan, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on November 22.
Erdogan said the military chiefs of the three countries will also meet.
Syrian politcal processes
The Syrian Congress on National Dialogue, scheduled for November 18, has been postponed, a report from RIA said. When asked if a new date had been set, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said “There is not, yet.”
Erdogan said on Thursday that Russia and Turkey agreed to maintain coordination between the Astana and Geneva processes aimed at ending the war in Syria, but stressed that PYD representation in peace processes was a red line for Turkey.
“There will be no concessions on that. We, Turkey, will never be at the table where terror organizations are also present. This is valid for both Geneva and Astana. If a terror organization is there, no one should expect our presence. In politics there is a question of honor and we will never give concessions on the honor of politics. I have told this to Putin,” Erdogan said.