Saturday 24 February 2018

Turkey calls on US to not arm Kurdish 'terrorists'

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AP
Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AP

Tulay Karadeniz

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he hopes the United States will reverse its decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters perceived as terrorists by Ankara.

Mr Erdogan's remarks came a day after the US announced it would arm the fighters as a necessary step to recapture Isil's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

Mr Erdogan said the "fight against terrorism should not be led with another terror organisation" and that "we want to know that our allies will side with us and not with terror organisations".

The president said he would take up the issue during a planned meeting with US President Donald Trump on May 16.

Mr Erdogan said: "I hope that it [the US] will turn away from this wrong."

Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the US, Turkey and Europe.

"The US administration still has chances to consider Turkey's sensitivities on the PKK. If there is a decision otherwise, this will surely have consequences and will yield a negative result for the US as well," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

Mr Yildirim said he could not imagine the US having to choose between Turkey's strategic partnership and a terrorist organisation.

The US sees the YPG as a valuable partner in the fight against Isil militants in northern Syria, and says arming it is necessary to recapturing Raqqa, Isil's de facto capital in Syria and a hub for planning attacks against the West.

That argument holds little sway with Ankara, which fears advances by the YPG in northern Syria could inflame the PKK insurgency on Turkish soil.

While Turkey could impose limits on the use of the Incirlik base, that would hamper operations against Isil, which also menaces Turkey itself and has claimed responsibility for attacks including the bombing of Istanbul airport.

Turkey could also step up air strikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq. Turkish warplanes attacked Kurdish YPG fighters in northeastern Syria and Iraq's Sinjar region late last month.

Meanwhile, Air strikes killed at least 11 people, including four children, in a village north of Raqqa overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It said warplanes, thought to belong to the US-led military coalition, hit al-Salihiya village.

Irish Independent

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