ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday declared the Syrian town of Manbij belongs to the country’s Arab ethnic majority, reiterating his strong opposition to a Kurdish self-rule in Syria labeling it “a terror corridor.”
Erdogan was speaking at a press conference at Istanbul Ataturk Airport before his departure to New York City.
The Turkish president will be attending the 71st United Nations General Assembly held in the United States, Kurdistan24 Istanbul bureau reported.
“Although 95 percent of the place called Manbij belongs to the Arabs, [they] insisted the PYD and YPG capture the area and move toward the north [Jarablus],” said Erdogan.
His comments were referring to the US that backs Kurdish forces in Syria in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).
The Democratic Union Party (PYD) is currently the ruling political party in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).
The Turkish President also stated his country repeatedly voiced its objection to Kurdish expansion through the victories of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey deems the group as terrorists for ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been waging a decades-long guerrilla war for autonomy in the country.
Erdogan also called the Kurdish-held town of Tell Abyad “an Arab population center.”
Moreover, he mentioned his country’s “patience” with Kurdish plans of uniting the three cantons of Jazira, Kobani, and Afrin in northern Syria along the Turkish border.
Erdogan claimed YPG’s territorial gains ultimately “were meant for reaching the Mediterranean Sea” a geostrategic game-changer for Kurdish aspirations of creating a Greater Kurdistan.
The YPG and its Arabo-Kurdish alliance of the Syrian Democratic Forces liberated Manbij with air support from the US-led anti-IS Coalition in mid-August.
The campaign lasted nearly two months, sacrificing the lives of about 250 fighters in the process.
Manbij, a multi-ethnic town and county in Syria’s Aleppo governorate, had a population of 75,000 people before the civil war.
After its fall to IS in January 2014, Manbij became a hub for foreign Islamist militants who staged multiple attacks in Europe, especially France.
CALL IT “DA’ESH”
Regarding IS, Turkey’s President said it was unacceptable and an insult to Islam that “some members” of the Turkish media were using the acronym “ISIL” which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Instead, Erdogan told the Turkish media to use the acronym “Da’esh,” which is meant to be pejorative by some opponents of the group.
“We don’t accept a terror group called ISIL. We call it Da’esh. That is what it is. Some people among us insist on [calling it ISIL],” Erdogan said.
“It is not possible to use the words terror, and Islam together. Our religion rejects terrorism. Nobody can ascribe such a thing to our religion which is a religion of peace,” he concluded.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Reporting by Ari Khalidi)