'Turkey, US discussed possible Manbij operation'

'Turkey, US discussed possible Manbij operation'

Head of parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee says Syria's Manbij region should be saved from terrorist PYD/PKK

By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu

ANKARA (AA) - A prominent Turkish deputy said on Saturday that Turkey has been discussing a potential Manbij operation with U.S. authorities.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Volkan Bozkir, the head of parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke on Turkish-U.S. ties amid Turkey’s ongoing Operation Olive Branch.

Bozkir called on the U.S. to not cooperate with the PYD/PKK terrorist group in Syria, but instead with Turkey’s political moves in the Middle East.

"If the U.S. wants to come to Syria, Iraq, or the region, its most powerful partner is Turkey," he said.

"For providing peace and security in the region, Turkey is a unique country to work with."

U.S. support for the terror group has long vexed Ankara, as Washington called the PYD/PKK-led umbrella group, the SDF, a "reliable partner" in its fight against Daesh and has provided it with arms and equipment in the face of strong objections from Turkey.

Bozkir said that Turkey could expand Operation Olive Branch to the neighboring Manbij region.

"We discussed this matter with the U.S. We hope they would understand us. We’re asking them not to create an environment which puts us at odds," said Bozkir.

-'Broken promises'

Bozkir highlighted that Turkey has repeatedly told the U.S. its sensitivities about the presence of the PYD/PKK in Syria.

"We’re reaching the conclusion in our meetings [with the U.S.] that they have understood our sensitivities. But then we find that they have broken their promises and made some cooperation [with terror groups]," said Bozkir.

"The U.S. is playing a dangerous game in Syria," he said.

Bozkir's remarks came after Washington voiced concern about the safety of U.S. forces in Manbij amid Turkey's ongoing operation in Afrin, Syria.

A high-level U.S. delegation on Tuesday discussed a number of issues, including Syria, with officials at the Turkish Foreign Ministry and Turkish General Staff in Ankara.

Bozkir said that Turkey would never allow any forced demographic change in Syria.

"There were no Kurds in Manbij before. It turned into a town with a full Kurdish population," he said.

"Turkey would never allow this ... Manbij should be saved from the YPG terrorist group," said Bozkir.

In 2014, the PKK’s PYD/YPG received support from the U.S.-led coalition against Daesh after the battle at Kobani, followed by a change in the ethnic makeup in the region.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as to protect the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity.

Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.

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