The Kurdish group in Erdogan's cross-hairs, known as the YPG, has been fighting Islamic State in coordination with US forces, and it has received American support in the form of cash and weapons. "But we do not say that YPG is the same as PKK".
"They are not being honest, they are still not removing terrorists (from Manbij)", Erdogan said.
Erdogan's comments came a day after the Pentagon announced the setting up of USA observation posts on the northeast Syria border region meant to prevent altercations between the Turkish army and the YPG, despite calls from Ankara not to go ahead with the move. The U.S. had provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite Ankara's warnings that the group share organic organizational and operational links with the PKK that claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people its 30-years terror campaign against Turkey.
Then in January 2018, Turkish military forces launched another cross-border military operation inside Syria, code-named "Operation Olive Branch", with the declared aim of eliminating YPG militants from northern Syria, particularly the Afrin region. Earlier this year, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria after the USA announced its renewed commitment to maintaining support of the predominantly-Kurdish militia with training and weapons.
"Erdogan has lost hope that the US would stop its support for SDF, particularly since the USA observation points along the Syria-Turkey border have become a reality", said John Saleh, a Syrian affairs analyst in Washington.
In recent months, both Syria and Iraq have discovered a number of mass graves in areas previously occupied by the jihadists.
American forces are with the SDF east of the Euphrates as well as in the flashpoint city of Manbij, which is west of the river.
The Kurds are "involved in a very, very tough battle", said James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syria engagement, said December 3. "Despite all the delays, Manbij deal and similar deals for the east of the Euphrates should be implemented to ensure the stability in the region", he added. However, the US has been dragging its feet on the implementation of the deal for some time now.
FILE - A USA military commander, second from right, walks with Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) at Mount Karachok near Malikiya, Syria, April 25, 2017.
The YPG is the main group within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which now controls more than a quarter of Syria's territory.
Turkish officials held talks in Ankara this week with the U.S. special representative for Syria, Jim Jeffrey. "If there is no fear, people will return to their hometown on their own", he was quoted by Sputnik as saying.
To try to assuage Turkey, the coalition conducts joint patrols with Turkish forces west of the Euphrates around Manbij. "The forces who are fighting (there) will return to defend their areas and their families", Mahmud said.