ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - Turkey's Defense Minister said on Thursday that his country would enforce diplomacy instead of military confrontation in its demand for a Kurdish withdrawal from the northern Syrian town of Manbij.
Manbij, only 37 kilometers (22 miles) south of the Turkey's border and controlled by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is now surrounded by Russian and American soldiers from the west and the north respectively, creating a buffer zone against any Turkish assault as promised by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Defense Minister Fikri Isik reiterated that their priority was still Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG forces' vacation from the town, but Turkey would use military options as a "last resort."
Manbij has become the central bone of contention in a US-Turkish dispute over how to defeat the Islamic State (IS) group and capture its de facto capital of Raqqa, already getting encircled by the SDF.
Despite a growing reconciliation with Russia, Turkey is exasperated with limitations on its military venture in Syria to dismantle Kurdish self-rule there.
Regarding Russian soldiers' wearing Manbij Military Council (MMC) insignias, a local SDF division, Isik said Russia does not share the Turkish view that the Kurdish groups operating in Syria are "terrorists," reported Kurdistan24 Ankara Bureau.
He reminded that Russia does not consider the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) 'terrorist' either. The group has been waging a decades-long rebellion against Turkey about repressed Kurdish rights.
Erdogan repeatedly vowed to capture Manbij from the SDF on the grounds it is "an Arab" town, whereas US officials urged the focus on defeating the IS.
Editing by Ava Homa