Erdogan: Arabs should be placed in Manbij; Kirkuk being occupied by Kurds

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking to NTV presenter Oguz Haksever.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Arabs must be placed in the northern Syrian town of Manbij where Islamic State (IS) fighters were defeated by a coalition of Kurds and Arabs fighting under the banner of the Manbij Military Council.

Erdogan said that they were against the US and Russia’s relationship with ‘terrorists’ referring to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and said that the Raqqa operation could not start without Manbij being ‘sorted out’ first.

“I had a conversation with Mr. Putin today and we discussed these issues. If we decide on a joint plan on Manbij then we would want the YPG to be pushed back east of the River Euphrates and for Arabs to be placed in Manbij,” Erdogan added.

In a live TV program that aired on Tuesday, Erdogan also expressed his thoughts on developments in Kirkuk where the hoisting of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s flag on government buildings and a decision to have a referendum to determine the city’s ‘disputed’ status has raised tensions. “In my opinion, what they [the Kurds] are doing is an occupation,” he said.

“When we look at it historically, whether some want to accept this or not does not interest me, but we know that Kirkuk is historically a Turkmen city. However, the city with its Turkmen, Arabs and of course Kurds has gone through a lot of changes and right now I think what they [the Kurds] are doing is an occupation,” the Turkish president said before warning the KRG that they are “playing with fire” and that there would be “consequences in the future”.

Erdogan also spoke about the Turkish army’s Euphrates Shield operation into northern Syria which was recently terminated. “This was the first phase, but this operation will have unnamed second and third phases. This is not just about Syria. There is an Iraq aspect too. There is a Tal Afar or Sinjar situation too where there are 2,500 PKK terrorists. We have brethren there,” Erdogan concluded, signalling at possible incursions into Iraq.