INTERVIEW-Turkey says Syrian Kurdish forces should not be core of Raqqa operation

by Reuters
Thursday, 8 September 2016 12:51 GMT

By Phil Stewart

LONDON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Turkey supports a planned operation to drive Islamic State out of its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa but the Kurdish YPG militia should not be the ones at the core of it, Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik told Reuters on Thursday.

"What Turkey focuses and insists on is that instead of solely the YPG forces, the operations must be conducted, as the core of the operatives, by the local people of the region, instead of the YPG," Isik said in an interview in London.

"Turkey will not allow YPG forces to extend their territory and gain power by using the Daesh operations as an excuse," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Isik also said that YPG fighters had still not retreated east of the Euphrates river as promised after a U.S.-backed operation to take the Syrian town of Manbij from Islamic State.

He said Turkey, which launched a military incursion into Syria just over two weeks ago, would seek no other objective around Manbij provided the YPG forces retreated east.

Isik was speaking after a meeting in London with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who told reporters that the YPG had indeed returned back across the Euphrates.

The two men also discussed the importance of local forces being at the centre of any Raqqa operation, the Pentagon said in a statement.

It also said Carter had assured his Turkish counterpart of continued U.S. support for Turkey's efforts to clear Islamic State from its borders.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Writing by Nick Tattersall)

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