Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called on Donald Trump to end US support for the Kurdish militia YPG inside Syria.
Visiting the White House on Tuesday, Erdoğan challenged Trump’s formal confirmation last week of the American military assistance to the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the YPG, since its formation in late 2015. The US has provided airstrikes, special forces, armored vehicles, and weapons as the SDF pushed back the Islamic State in northeastern Syria and moved west across the Euphrates River, advancing as far the city of Manbij in Aleppo Province.
The Americans have stepped up the assistance during an offensive on ISIS’s center in Syria, the city of Raqqa, which has been anticipated for months. Ankara objects because it considers the YPG and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.
In contrast to recent denunciations of the US, Erdoğan adopted a conciliatory tone with Trump, declaring that Ankara is determined to expand its ties with Washington. The warm words led some international outlets, such as Reuters, to almost ignore the Turkish President’s comments on the YPG.
However, the pro-Erdoğan Turkish daily Daily Sabah headlined the President’s assertion:
It is absolutely unacceptable to take the YPG-PYD into consideration as partners in the region, and it’s going against a global agreement we reached.
We are committed to fighting all kinds of terrorism, without any discrimination whatsoever, that impose a clear and present threat upon our future.
Without referring to the PYD or the YPG, Trump said, “We support Turkey in the…fight against terror and terror groups like ISIS and the PKK, and ensure they have no safe quarter, the terror groups.”
There was no mention of the dispute over the offensive against Raqqa, where Ankara is insisting on no YPG involvement.
Last week, the SDF completed the takeover of the town of Tabqa and its adjacent dam, the largest in Syria, about 40 km (25 miles) west of Raqqa along the Euphrates River.
Clashes Outside Turkish Embassy
Erdoğan’s supporters, reportedly including the President’s bodyguards, clashed with Kurdish demonstrations outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington.
Nine people were injured and two arrests were made. Erdoğan was said to be inside the embassy at the time.
Witnesses said the fight broke out when Erdoğan’s security detail attacked protesters carrying the flag of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD).
A demonstration outside the Turkish Embassy in northwest Washington led to nine people being injured, and two arrested pic.twitter.com/6SQTlQAUaa
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) May 17, 2017
TOP PHOTO: AP