Leading PKK commander Murat Karayilan speaks to reporters at the group's bases in Qandil, Kurdistan region.
Leading Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) commander, Murat Karayilan, has claimed Turkey is “bluffing” with claims it will attack the Syrian Democratic Forces-held Manbij and participate in the Raqqa operation to capture the Islamic State (IS) stronghold. Karayilan said Turkey would not be able to enter Manbij or Raqqa without US and Russian approval.
Speaking to Kurdish news agency ANF, the prominent figure accused Ankara of employing a “regional anti-Kurdish policy” and said Turkey has three objectives in its current Syria policy.
“Turkey has three objectives when it talks of [attacking] Raqqa and Manbij; the first is for internal politics, to say ‘I’m strong and can attack wherever I want, but the US and other international powers aren’t allowing me, that’s why I’m limited to al-Bab’. However Turkey does not have the power to go to Raqqa, even if the US allowed it.
“The second is that Turkey wants to remain in al-Bab. The agreement with Russia was that they would hand over Bab to the [Syrian] regime after taking it [from IS]. But they will not keep this promise. So now the Turkish state wants to rest on the US and remain in Bab permanently. They want to take this opportunity and are thinking, “We have US authorisation to stay here, let’s take Manbij too,” but this will not work.
“They are insisting on these requests and policies despite knowing that neither Russia nor the US will accept them. And this is the third objective: to incriminate, especially the US, and get more support against the PKK. Erdogan and his crew think they are clever; by employing these tactics they think they can remain in Bab permanently, launch an attack on Manbij and get unlimited support against the PKK. Turkey’s talk of going to Raqqa is a complete bluff. Ankara doesn’t have the power for that. However to gain these three points it could impose itself by tactically attacking Manbij and Afrin.”
The head of the PKK’s armed wing, the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), also claimed that Turkey’s overarching objective in its Syria incursion was to “prevent the Rojava revolution” and “unification of the cantons” but that it was too late for this.
“Turkey’s sole purpose is to put up obstacles against Kurds. It thinks this a success. There is no success in this. The Kurds don’t want to just unite the two cantons [in northwestern Syria] anymore, their objective is to create a federation in the region, together with the Arab people and their political forces. In this regard Turkey’s policies are narrow and constricted.”
Karayilan also criticised and accused the US and other international powers of “turning a blind-eye to Turkey’s violation of Rojava’s borders and killing of Kurds and Arabs.”
“It is interesting that neither the US nor Russia, nor European countries have said anything concrete against this. Erdogan’s attacks on the border mean support for Daesh (IS) and are to weaken the Raqqa operation.”
The PKK military head’s comments come following important developments around al-Bab and Manbij. On Monday Syrian government forces reached the western border of Manbij to block the path of advancing Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups. This has cut off Turkey-FSA forces’ path to Raqqa and for the first time created a passage from SDF-held Manbij to the autonomous western canton of Afrin through SAA-held areas.
Recent visits by US military officials to Manbij and new provisions for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including armoured vehicles – which have reportedly been stationed at border of areas held by Turkey-FSA – are also important markers as to the direction of events.
However Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday morning reiterated that the Turkish army’s next stop would be Manbij.
“Now that al-Bab has been cleared from Daesh [IS], YPG terrorist-held Manbij is Turkey’s next target,” Erdogan said at a press conference held jointly with Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar.
It is expected that US President Donald Trump on Tuesday (today) will unveil plans on the new phase of the US’s strategy to combat the Islamic State in Syria.
Ankara views the PKK, which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish government since 1984, a terrorist organisation, and alleges that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria are an extension of the outlawed group.