Numan Kurtulmus, Turkey's Deputy PM / Unknown
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Numan Kurtulmus held a press conference following tonight's Cabinet Meeting in Ankara and made important remarks about Turkey's position in Rojava-Syria and Iraq.
Commenting on the operation 'Euphrates Shield', launched by the Turkish army and some elements within the FSA in August, Kurtulmus said, "Turkey is continuing its operation on the Syria border. It is going as planned and Turkey is achieving its objectives to form a safe zone. We need to continue diplomacy work with all the countries involved. The FSA are being supported logistically. We are negotiating with the relevant circles to prevent any unwanted issues. Either the PYD [Democratic Union Party] is going to be cleared from Manbij as was promised, or we are going to support the FSA accordingly so it can cleanse Manbij."
Kurtulmus also evaluated the imminent operation on the Islamic State's (IS/ISIS) stronghold in Syria and said, "Another important matter is Raqqa. The intervention needs to be made with legitimate armies. The Raqqa operation will start when the Euphrates Shield ends. There is military movement on the ground. Turkey is doing what needs to be done in regards to its commitments. We are continuing our communications with all parties."
US and Kurdish officials recently confirmed that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), will participate in the Raqqa operation. Turkey has rejected participation if the YPG, which it views as a terrorist group, is included in the operation to liberate Raqqa. Kurdish officials in Rojava have likewise said they will not partake if Turkey does.
The Deputy PM also stated his country's stance on developments near Mosul and said that Turkey would not remain a spectator to the operation on Tel Afar, a city inbetween Sinjar and Mosul.
"Tel Afar is important to Mosul's security. The cleansing of Tel Afar from ISIS and the unity of Shia and Sunni Turkmens with a Turkmen force acting alongside the Iraqi army is a focal point for Turkey. An ethnic or sectarian attack could lead to ethnic or sectarian cleansing so I would like to state that Turkey will not remain a spectator to the attack on Tel Afar."
It is thought Kurtulmus' remarks regarding Tel Afar are also in relation to the presence of PKK and Yazidi fighters in Sinjar. PKK officials have recently emphasised the possibility of an attack on Sinjar by Turkish soldiers. Interestingly the government official did not comment on the Turkish army's participation in the Mosul operation, which has been a contentious subject between Ankara and Baghdad.
Kurdish officials and analysts have said the main objective of Turkey's policy in the region is to prevent Kurdish gains, especially in Rojava-Northern Syria Federation.
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