A Kurdish YPG fighter gestures to a convoy of US military vehicles at the Syrian-Turkish border. (Reuters: Rodi Said, file)
Turkey has accused the United States of siding with terrorists after Washington announced it would begin to to arm Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria.
- Erdogan says he will convey Turkey’s stance to Trump in Washington next week
- Ankara’s Foreign Ministry equates the Kurdish YPG to the terrorist PKK organisation
- The US regards the YPG as a valuable ally in the fight against IS in Syria
The rebuke came a week before President Tayyip Erdogan is due in Washington for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump, who approved the supply of arms to support Kurdish fighters involved in the campaign to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State.
Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in south-east Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.
“We want to believe that our allies will prefer to side with us, not with a terrorist organisation,” Mr Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara.
Mr Erdogan said that he would convey Turkey’s stance to Mr Trump next week and at a NATO summit later this month, adding that he hoped the decision would be changed by the time he visited the US.
Earlier, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters the US failure to consider Turkey’s sensitivities “will surely have consequences and will yield a negative result for the US as well”.
The United States regards the YPG as a valuable partner in the fight against Islamic State militants in northern Syria.
Washington has said that arming the Kurdish forces is necessary to recapturing Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria and a hub for planning attacks against the West.
But the argument holds little sway with Ankara, which worries that advances by the YPG in northern Syria could inflame the PKK insurgency on Turkish soil.
‘Every weapon seized is a threat to Turkey’
Kurdish YPG fighters head a convoy of US military vehicles in Syria. (Reuters: Rodi Said, file)
Weapons supplied to the YPG have in the past fallen into PKK hands, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“Both the PKK and YPG are terrorist organisations and they are no different apart from their names,” he told a televised news conference.
“Every weapon seized by them is a threat to Turkey.”
The YPG said Washington’s decision would bring swift results and help the militia “play a stronger, more influential and more decisive role in combating terrorism”.
The Pentagon said on Tuesday it was aware of concerns in Turkey, which has given vital support to a US-led campaign against Islamic State insurgents in Syria and Iraq.
For example, jets carrying out air strikes against the jihadist group have flown from Turkey’s Incirlik air base.
But Mr Erdogan has repeatedly castigated Washington for its support of the YPG.
YPG fighters take up positions inside a damaged building to monitor Islamic State militants. (Reuters: Rodi Said)