Ankara, Beirut, Paris-Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Thursday that a military operation led by Euphrates Shield forces will target the city of Manbij, lately liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces from ISIS.
Turkey will also target the stronghold of the terrorist organization in Raqqa, Erdogan said, adding that he had informed his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama about the new plan.
Prior to arriving to Manbij and Raqqa, Turkish forces will start attacking the town of al-Bab in the Aleppo countryside.
Erdogan’s statements came after Western officials spoke about an operation to liberate Raqqa from ISIS using the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. However, Turkey rejects the involvement of any Syrian Kurdish forces in the operation.
Two days ago, a U.S. army commander said that fighters from the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit would join the forces tasked to isolate Raqqa. U.S. officials expect Arab forces to control the city and not Kurdish forces.
However, Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Isik has reiterated Ankara’s objection to having Syrian Kurdish fighters participate in any operation to capture the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.
Isik suggested that instead of the Kurds, Turkish-backed forces could present an “alternative.”
Meanwhile, a Russian diplomatic source told Izvestia newspaper that Moscow would offer Washington a plan for its participation in the Raqqa military operation.
The source also spoke about a possibility of exchanging intelligence data concerning terrorist positions in Syria and about coordinating air operations.
The latest developments coincide with the one-day official visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Russia for talks on the Syrian crisis.
Zarif is scheduled to attend a trilateral meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on regional and Syrian developments.
Meanwhile, the European Union added on Thursday 10 high-ranking officials on its list of sanctions for bombing hundreds of civilians in Syria.
The latest decision takes the number of people on the EU’s Syrian list of sanctions to 217, by freezing their assets and banning them to travel to any EU country.
On the battlefield, Iranian media outlets said that a senior commander from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has been killed in Syria.
Thursday’s report said General Gholamreza Samei was on an advisory assignment in Syria. Samai was a consultant with the Guards and he was tasked with military and intelligence missions in the last few years.