Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has accused the Kurdish militias of engaging in ethnic cleansing in northern Syria.
Cavusoglu told a news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday that fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) were attempting to put their own people in areas that had been recovered from ISIS in the northern parts of Syria.
“Those people that were forced to leave these places should be placed back in these regions, they should live there, but that is not the YPG’s aim. The YPG is engaged in ethnic cleansing, they are placing who they want to in those places,” Cavusoglu said.
Cavusoglu said the ethnic composition of the area around the Syrian city of Manbij west of the Euphrates – captured by the YPG from Daesh terrorists earlier this month – was largely Arab.
“Residents who had to leave the region (before fighting broke out) must be the ones who live there. But that is not the goal of the YPG,” the minister said.
Ankara regards the YPG and YPD as allies of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.
The YPG, which controls nearly Syria’s entire northern border with Turkey, is a key US partner in the war against ISIS as they say while in fact they use US support to fulfill their goals in creating an autonomous region in northern Syria.
Military operation against Kurdish militias in Syria
Syrian rebels backed by Turkish army entered Jaralus, one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border, on August 24, in Turkey’s first major U.S.-backed incursion into Syria.
The operation which is named “Euphrates Shield” aims at stopping the Kurdish YPG from seizing more territory along the border and filling the void left by ISIS and eliminating the terrorist group itself.
Turkey demanded that the YPG retreat to the east side of the Euphrates within a week. The Kurdish militia had moved west of the river earlier this month as part of a US-backed operation, now completed, to capture the city of Manbij from ISIS.
on Monday, Syrian rebels said that they are advancing towards Manbij in northern Syria.
“After seizing control of the border town of Jarablus, the FSA fighters moved under Turkish air cover to control villages such as Amarna, Yousef Beq and Ain Al Baida within hours,” a journalist said.
“But their main target is to take over Manbij,” he added. “YPG fighters maintain a significant presence along that area with their local allies.”
After seizing Jarablus, the Turkish-backed rebels have advanced up to 10 km (6 miles) south of the border town, rebel sources and a group monitoring the war said.
But hours after the YPG said it had withdrawn east of the Euphrates, Turkish state media reported that Turkish artillery had shelled YPG fighters south of Jarablus, claiming they had advanced westward.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said Kurdish-backed forces opposed by Ankara had gained up to 8 km of ground northwards, apparently seeking to pre-empt advances by the rebels.
Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said preventing the Kurdish PYD party – the political arm of the YPG – from uniting Kurdish cantons east of Jarablus with those further west was a priority.
“Islamic State should be completely cleansed, this is an absolute must. But it’s not enough for us … The PYD and the YPG militia should not replace Islamic State there,” Isik told Turkish broadcaster NTV.
“The PYD’s biggest dream is to unify the western and eastern cantons. We cannot let this happen,” he said.
“If the PYD does not retreat to east of the Euphrates, we have the right to do everything about it,” the minister said.