Ankara – Turkey considers that brokering a diplomatic settlement for Syria’s Manbij between Russia and the United States is central for the Syria peace process.
Finding a diplomatic solution with the United States and Russia on northern Syria’s Manbij has become a necessity, and a military approach would only be considered if diplomacy failed, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said on Thursday.
Deliberations between Ankara and Washington concerning Manbij are ongoing, Turkish sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Liberating Raqqa, ISIS-bastion east of Aleppo, is also being addressed by US-Turkey discussions, sources added.
Speaking to broadcaster A-Haber in an interview, Isik also said Turkey was considering every option to prevent Kurdish militants from taking a foothold in Iraq’s Sinjar, including a joint ground operation with the forces of the Masoud Barzani, President of the Iraqi Kurdish Region.
The Syrian-Kurdish militia, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, is the dominant party in a US-backed alliance currently controlling Manbij. It is unclear how large a presence the Kurds have in Manbij.
Sources confirmed that major complications facing consultations stem from Washington’s resolve to back Kurdish People’s Protection Units – seeing them as a key ally in the war against ISIS in Syria and considering them a reliable partaker in the Raqqa offensive.
It is worth noting that Turkey considers US-backed Kurdish militias in Syria an offshoot to local group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which it considers a terrorist organization.
Sources pointed out that Washington insists on not abandoning Kurdish forces in Syria, and will not put pressure them to retreat from Manbij or the east of Euphrates river.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted contempt on continued US support for the Kurdish forces. He emphasized that the Euphrates Shield Operation in Syria and Turkish-backed forces have seized control of some villages around Manbij, and that the Kurdish forces will not be allowed to establish a Kurdish state in northern Syria without Turkey’s agreement.
Previously, President Erdogan said that Raqqa belongs to the Arabs, and that Turkey’s next goal in Syria is to liberate the city, along with Manbij.