Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Manbij needs to be cleared from YPG militants before Turkey takes the fight to Raqqa – the de facto capital of Daesh in Syria.
Turkey plans to capture the Syrian town of Manbij after taking al-Bab from Daesh, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday.
Cavusoglu said the area had to be cleared of YPG — the armed wing of the PYD — the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, and the EU.
"There are YPG terrorists in Manbij. This place needs to be cleared of them. We've stressed this before. We sent a joint delegation. The people there all say the same thing."
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters captured the strategic city of al-Bab on Thursday, but celebrations after the town fell to rebels were marred when two car bomb attacks near the city killed almost 60 people, mostly civilians.
Cavusoglu said the YPG were persecuting people in Manbij and forcing for them into exile and even destroying all of their official documents.
"They are trying to build their own cantons around here. So Manbij needs to be cleared from the YPG," he said, adding that the next target after Manbij will be Raqqa – the de facto capital of Daesh in Syria.
Plans for Raqqa
The minister said plans to liberate Raqqa are underway and referred to the "upper level negotiations" between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump and also with the CIA Director Mike Pompeo who visited Turkey on February 9.
"We can easily clean Daesh with the right strategy and the right groups, and deliver Raqqa safely to the towns people," Cavusoglu said.
Raqqa, however, remains surrounded by Kurdish-led forces declared terrorist units by Turkey.
"In order for Turkish forces or Turkish-friendly forces to get to Raqqa, they will have to fight or negotiate their way past the Kurdish-led forces and that is going to be a tough challenge," Borzou Daragahi, Middle East Correspondent for BuzzFeed News, told TRT World.
Turkey has been facing a dilemma along its Syria border since the emergence of Daesh and YPG in northern Syria.
Both are recognised as terrorist groups by Ankara and have fiercely fought Bashar al Assad's regime and each other to claim Syria's border with Turkey.