Erdogan vows not to allow a second ‘Northern Iraq’ in Syria
Erdogan said he would raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a one-day trip to Moscow on Tuesday. The two leaders, backing opposing sides in Syria, are coordinating their next moves after the US leaves the war-torn country.
He once again promised to take control of the Kurdish-allied town of Manbij in Syria where an ISIS-claimed attack recently killed four Americans, including soldiers, five members of Kurdish-led forces, and 10 civilians.
“We shall give Manbij back to its rightful owners,” Erdogan declared, using a line he employed during last year’s Russian-approved Turkish invasion of the Kurdish region of Afrin in northwestern Syria that later saw the displacement of over 150,000 locals and a campaign of Arabization under his watch.
Turkish officials have condemned Kurdish attempts to reach a political settlement with the Syrian regime aimed at preserving a degree of autonomy after the US leaves.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters last week that Syrian territorial integrity was of paramount importance to Turkey which was a “guarantor” to Syria’s unity as his office issued a statement saying any Syrian army movement into Kurdish-held areas with the consent of the YPG was a “destabilizing act.”
Turkish leaders, including Erdogan, all said they would be in charge of a “safe zone” of up to 20 miles deep into Syrian territory.
Back in 2015, at the height of the conflict with the Islamic State and Kurdish military gains, the Turkish leader said it would be “impossible for us to accept a Northern Syria after Northern Iraq.”
In 2017, Erdogan was at the forefront of international pressure and threats against the Kurdistan Region as an overwhelming majority of 93 percent voted for secession from Iraq in an independence referendum.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany