Turkey on Thursday threatened to strike Syrian Kurdish militia forces if they don’t withdraw from Manbij, a former bastion of Islamic State extremists that has been taken over by predominantly-Kurdish forces.
“We will strike the YPG if they do not retreat,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists, referring to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.
The YPG, which Ankara considers a “terrorist” organisation, is backed by Washington as the most effective fighting force on the ground in the battle against ISIS.
Turkey launched a military campaign inside Syria in August, backing opposition rebels who captured a number of towns from ISIS, including Al Bab near the Turkish border.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week said the next target would be Manbij -- which is now controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a group dominated by Kurdish fighters that Ankara denounces as “terrorists”.
“We have not yet started our operation in Manbij,” Cavusoglu said.
Turkey has also said it wanted to work with its allies to capture ISIS bastion of Raqa, but has ruled out any operation alongside the Kurdish militia.
“Let’s be realistic ... To carry out this (Raqa) operation with YPG is to risk Syria’s future,” he said.
“We do not want our ally the United States to continue cooperating with terror organisations that target us.”