Maintaining pressure on the US, Turkey has called on Washington to end its support of Kurdish groups who control about 1/3 of Syria.
Ibrahim Kalın, the spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Thursday that the US must stop all direct or indirect backing of the Syrian Kurdistan Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG militia. He reiterated Ankara’s position that the groups are part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has fought Turkey’s security forces for more than 30 years.
Kalın said, “Turkey’s main expectation from the US, which is our NATO ally and strategic partner, is to end its all engagements with PYD/YPG, Syrian branch of PKK terror group.”
In autumn 2015 the US created the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces to push back the Islamic State throughout northern and eastern Syria. The SDF now holds most of the Kurdish cantons of Kobani and Cezire, with ISIS reduced to pockets on the Iraqi border. Local Kurdish-led administrations, receiving US assistance, oversee the area.
Erdoğan has stepped up his challenge to the US and the SDF in the past two weeks, saying Turkey will never allow a “terrorist” group to remain east of the Euphrates River.
Last week Turkish forces shelled YPG positions east of the river, reportedly killing at least 10 fighters. The US and SDF said in response that operations against ISIS had been halted.
Kalın said Thursday:
Wherever it comes, inside or outside, the Turkish Republic will resolutely continue fighting terrorist threats with all its institutions….
We can never accept the argument that the measures Turkey has been taking against PYD/YPG, that is PKK, is weakening its fight against Daesh [ISIS].
On Tuesday, Erdoğan said the US must end joint patrols with Kurdish troops in northern Syria near the Turkish border, reportedly begun after the Turkish shelling last week.
Turkey and the US had agreed on their own joint patrols near the city of Manbij, west of the Euphrates, but Turkish officials are complaining that the YPG is not withdrawing from the area.
Erdoğan is scheduled to meet Trump in Paris this weekend. He told reporters, “I believe when we speak with Trump, they will probably stop this process [joints patrols with the SDF].”