Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday night dismissed claims that a Syrian Kurdish militia had retreated east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria following Turkish strikes against the group.

"Right now, people say they have gone to the east but we say no, they haven't crossed," he said during a speech at Ankara's Esenboga airport, referring to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia which Ankara sees as a terror organization linked to separatist rebels in southeast Turkey.

Turkey's stance on the YPG puts it at odds with the United States, which views the YPG as a key ally in its fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group.

Erdogan said he did not believe what others, including the United States, said about the YPG crossing the river, adding that Turkey would be aware if the militia had moved.

Erdogan's remarks appeared to be in reference to comments made by a U.S. defenae official to AFP Monday that Kurdish forces had "all" moved east of the Euphrates.

The president also said he would prevent the YPG from creating a Syrian Kurdish region on Turkey's southern border.

"No one can expect us to permit a terror corridor to be created. We will not allow it," said Erdogan, referring to a desire by Syrian Kurdish groups to unite the three "cantons" already in place in northern Syria.

His comments come more than a week after Turkey launched an unprecedented military operation to clear the border area of ISIS jihadists and halt the westward advance of the YPG.

On Thursday, Ankara said it had cleared dozens of villages of "terrorists" after taking the town of Jarabulus without much resistance on the first day of the offensive on August 24.

During the operation, dubbed "Euphrates Shield", Turkey has also carried out strikes against the YPG.

It regards the YPG as a sister organization to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency that has left over 40,000 dead since 1984.

Washington has given training and equipment to the group while it retakes areas from the extremists.

AFP contributed to this report.

Join our official WhatsApp group