Erdogan: Syria running 'psychological' operation in Manbij
President Erdogan says if terror groups exit Syria, there is 'no job' left, and Turkey is against partitioning Syria
By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
Syria's Assad regime is running a “psychological” operation, said Turkey’s president on Friday, amid reports of a deployment of regime troops to a key northern region.
"We know that Syria is in a psychological action. We know that there is a situation like waving their own [regime] flag there. But there is nothing definite there yet," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, responding to reports of regime forces entering the northwestern Manbij region in coordination with the YPG/PKK terror group.
Speaking to reporters in Istanbul after Friday prayers, Erdogan said Turkey's goal is to teach the YPG/PKK terror group a lesson, and Turkey is determined to make it happen.
"We are against the partitioning of Syria. Our goal is terrorist groups leaving there. If the [terrorist] groups leave, then there is no job left for us," he stressed.
Syria talks in Russia on Saturday
Erdogan also said a high-powered Turkish delegation including the foreign minister, defense minister, and intelligence chief will visit Moscow early Saturday to discuss the situation in Syria, including Manbij.
After that, Erdogan said, he could speak on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and possibly visit Moscow or Sochi.
"In the meantime, we have to discuss these issues very seriously," stressed Erdogan.
On Nov. 1, before the announcement that U.S. forces would leave Syria, Turkish and U.S. troops began joint patrols in Manbij as part of an agreement that focuses on the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists to stabilize the region.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the death of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.
Erdogan has signaled that a cross-border operation against the terrorist PYD/YPG in Syria will happen soon. Since 2016, Ankara has successfully carried out two similar military operations in northern Syria.
U.S. President Donald Trump last week made the surprise announcement that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Syria. The decision followed Trump's phone call with Erdogan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the civil war-torn country.
U.S. troops in Syria have been cooperating with the YPG/PKK to fight Daesh, against Turkey’s objections that using one terrorist group to fight another makes no sense.
'Important' Pakistan ruling on terror group
On the news that Pakistan’s top court has designated the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) -- the group behind a defeated coup in Turkey in 2016 -- a “terrorist outfit,” Erdogan said the decision has "great importance."
Erdogan said the next step is the process of handing over former FETO-linked schools to Turkey's Maarif Foundation.
"Now that is starting. The transition process to the Maarif Foundation has a very very great importance," he stressed.
Earlier on Friday, the court ordered Pakistan's government to declare FETO a terror group and to ban it from running schools in the country.
The court also directed the country’s financial institutions to immediately freeze the bank accounts of a FETO-linked foundation and transfer those assets to the Maarif Foundation.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 in Turkey, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, including the military, police, and schools.
FETO also has a considerable presence outside Turkey, including private educational institutions that serve as a revenue stream for the terrorist group.
Turkey established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 to take over the administration of overseas schools linked to FETO. The foundation also establishes schools and education centers abroad.
Erdogan also said the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s candidate for Istanbul mayor will be announced on Saturday.
The post is a key one, as nearly one-fifth of Turkey's population lives in greater Istanbul.
Turkey’s local elections are scheduled for next March 31.
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