UPDATE – Erdogan calls on terrorists to leave Syria's Manbij



By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet

ANKARA (AA) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called on PYD/YPG terrorists to leave the northern Syrian city of Manbij “as soon as possible.”

"Our goal is the exit of terror groups PYD/YPG from Manbij as soon as possible," Erdogan said at a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in Istanbul.

The joint press conference comes after the 7th meeting of Ukraine-Turkey High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council.

Erdogan said he will also meet his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on sidelines of international meeting due to be held in Paris on Nov. 10-11.

He recalled a Manbij roadmap previously set between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo.

"However, this road map was not complied," said Erdogan, adding that "now it is time to implement it" and "the process is ongoing".

On Friday, Turkish National Defense Ministry shared a footage of the first round of the Turkey-U.S. joint patrols in Manbij that was conducted as part of the deal between the two countries.

The Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the city to stabilize the region, which is in the northeast of Syria's Aleppo province.

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 those of women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.

Upon a question, Erdogan said during their recent phone conversation with Trump, they also discussed the issue of Turkey's state-run lender Halkbank. Erdogan said the U.S. president told him that he would immediately instruct his ministers about it.

-Turkey-Ukraine ties

Regarding Turkish-Ukrainian relations, Erdogan pointed out that the number of tourists coming from Ukraine to Turkey has surpassed one million in 2018.

"We will continue to strengthen our relations with Ukraine," Erdogan said.

He said Turkey wishes early resolution of conflict in eastern Ukraine through “diplomatic and peaceful means.”

Turkey has never recognized illegal annexation of Crimea and it will never do in the future, Turkish president added.

In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea after a controversial referendum, which drew the ire of the international community as Russian soldiers occupied the region during the voting process.

Erdogan said Ukraine has supported Turkey after the failed coup attempt in 2016.

"I believe that our cooperation will continue in the following period in order to totally abolish FETO [Fetullah Terrorist Organization] presence in Ukraine," he said.

Regarding political prisoners in Russia, Erdogan said that he was previously notified about two Crimeans in Russian prisons; he said he conveyed the issue to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the two were released.

"Now a larger list was given and again we immediately conveyed it to the Russian side," Erdogan added.

For his part, Poroshenko said Saturday's Istanbul meeting was very "fruitful".

He also said the leaders of the two countries have given necessary instructions for signing Free Trade Agreement “as soon as possible.”

Earlier on Saturday, Poroshenko also visited Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul and met with Patriarch Bartholomew.

Poroshenko and Bartholomew signed a cooperation agreement regarding the ongoing process for establishing an independent Ukrainian church.

On October 11, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was agreed to be independent of the Russian Orthodox Church during a meeting held at the Patriarchate in Istanbul.

* Selin Calik Muhasilovic from Istanbul contributed to this story