‘Over 200 YPG members’ in Syria’s Manbij: Turkish FM

-Mevlut Cavusoglu reminds US of pledge to push back armed wing of PYD/PKK to east of Euphrates

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has reminded the U.S. over its pledge to push the YPG to the east of Euphrates, noting that more than 200 members of the armed wing of the terrorist PYD/PKK group remain in Manbij in northern Syria, reported Anadolu Agency.

Speaking at a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Ankara on Tuesday, Cavusoglu said: “When our ally, the United States told us that some YPG elements need to be included in the Manbij offensive for logistical purposes, we told them this is a flawed policy.

“But then we agreed to that on one condition: YPG members would retreat beyond [to the east of] the River Euphrates as soon as the operation is over,” he said.

However, he noted that the YPG continued to have a presence in Manbij and reminded the U.S. about its pledge to push back the armed wing of PYD/PKK.

“Mr. Biden and Mr. Kerry have pledged. They cannot send them back now, they cannot make the YPG do what they say. More than 200 YPG members are still in Manbij.”

The foreign minister also said it would be a “huge mistake” to move the YPG to Raqqa, considered the epicenter of Daesh, given the fact that the U.S. could not now make the group retreat from Manbij.

YPG is the armed wing of the PYD, which Turkey considers to be the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group.

Operation Euphrates Shield began last month and saw Free Syrian Army fighters, backed by the Turkish military, take control of Jarabulus in northern Syria from Daesh.

Syrian opposition forces recently took control of the Tal-ar district in the town of Cobanbey in the northwestern Aleppo province, which had been occupied by Daesh militants.

Turkey has said the operation aims to bolster border security, supporting coalition forces and eliminating the threat posed by terror organizations, especially Daesh.

The operation is in line with the country’s right to self-defense borne out of international treaties and a mandate given to Turkey’s armed forces by its parliament in 2014, which was extended for another year in September 2015.

– ‘Leaving EU but not Europe’ –

Speaking during a joint press conference with Cavusoglu, Boris Johnson said he hopes for a “jumbo” free trade deal between the UK and Turkey.

“We are leaving the EU, but we are not leaving Europe,” said Johnson.

UK’s Foreign Secretary also highlighted Turkey’s “heroic” efforts to manage the refugee crisis and said that “the most important thing now is that there should be a ceasefire” in Aleppo, Syria.

“Most people I think in the world know that the overwhelming responsibility of what is happening, the carnage that [is] being suffered by the people in Aleppo lies with the Assad regime and their supporters, puppeteers in Russia and in Iran,” Johnson said.

Johnson paid a visit to a container city, which houses Syrian refugees in Turkey’s southeastern Gaziantep province.

During his press conference with Turkey’s EU Minister Omer Celik in Ankara on Monday, Johnson praised the Turkish nation’s stand for democracy against the defeated July 15 coup, which left 240 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

He said the people of Turkey had “not allowed their democracy to be destroyed” by the coup plotters.

Johnson, during that interview, praised Turkish goods and mentioned that he is a “proud possessor of a beautiful, very well-functioning Turkish washing machine,” like so many other people in the UK.

After his meeting with Cavusoglu, Johnson was received by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

According to Prime Ministry sources, Johnson and Yildirim discussed the July 15 defeated coup, the fight against terrorism, Syria and Iraq.

The UK Foreign Secretary was later received by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a meeting, which lasted for 50 minutes and was closed to the press.

Johnson started his Tuesday visits with Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

“It is a great privilege to return to the land of my fathers and to pay tribute to the founder of a modern, free and democratic Turkey; and to see how his vision is being fulfilled as Turkey takes its place as one of the great nations of the world,” he wrote to Anitkabir memorial.

A village named Kalfat in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Cankiri is known to be the ancestral homeland of Boris Johnson’s paternal great-grandfather Ali Kemal.