ISIL problem would be resolved if FSA supported instead of YPG: EU Minister Çelik
Serkan Demirtaş - WARSAW
AA photoThe terror problem stemming from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) would be entirely resolved in the event that Turkey-backed moderate groups would be supported logistically instead of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), a senior government official has said, criticizing the international community for recognizing the Syrian Kurdish group as the sole “land force” fighting the jihadists.
“So, according to some [so-called] military assessments, there is no land force [other than the PYD]. If the opposition groups are trained, this land force would already be made. Who fought in al-Bab? Turkey-backed opposition groups. This shows there is always a way,” EU Minister Ömer Çelik told a group of journalists travelling with him to Warsaw on Feb. 22.
“If heavy weapons and armored vehicles that have been delivered to the YPG [People’s Protection Units] would be given to the opposition groups, there would be no more DEASH problem and they would not have to cooperate with a terror organization,” he stressed, referring to ISIL by its the Arabic acronym.
Çelik’s criticism refers to the long-standing U.S. policy to reinforce PYD/YPG elements in the fight against ISIL although Turkey urges that it regards this group as a terror organization and as the offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey and the new U.S. administration have recently engaged in a fresh dialogue to evaluate each other’s positions on the issues they can cooperate in Syria and in the fight against ISIL. Turkey has called on the U.S. for a joint plan for the future Raqqa operation and to cease its ties with the PYD.
Çelik recalled that the PYD/YPG have been in cooperation with the U.S. and Russia as well as the Bashar al-Assad regime, urging the international community to not weaken the international system by cooperating with such a group.
Terror-free safe zone
An important sign of change in the Syria policy came from new U.S. President Donald Trump who suggested the establishment of a “safe zone” in Syria without giving details on its location and how it would be protected. When Trump’s suggestion was reminded, Çelik said Turkey has to be careful about it, noting that “it should be a ‘terror-free safe zone’ instead of a mere ‘safe zone.’”
The significance attached on the fight against ISIL and al-Nusra should also be given to the PYD/YPG, Çelik said, urging that the group’s attempts to shift the “sociology of security” in Syria were not much different from ISIL’s. He explained that the PYD/YPG have long been seizing villages and territories belonging to Arabs, Turkmens and non-PKK Kurdish groups in the region, which, he said, can spark fresh ethnic tension in Syria in the future.
Shiite militias in Iraqi army uniform
Two important issues instigating weakness in the anti-terror fight in Iraq and Syria are the admission of the YPG into the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the tolerance shown toward Shiite militia group al-Hashd al-Shaabi, which is basically operating in Iraqi army uniform, Çelik said.
The developments in Iraq will be extensively discussed during Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani’s visit to Ankara this weekend, he said, disclosing Turkey’s two expectations from the Barzani administration.
“First, we won’t tolerate Sinjar becoming the second Kandil for the PKK. We expect sensitivity from our friends on this,” he stressed, referring to the PKK’s headquarters in northern Iraq, which has been operating there since the mid-1990s. Secondly, PKK’s efforts to appear like a secular group protecting Christians and other minority groups like the Yazidis in the region to draw sympathy from the West should be prevented, he added. “There is no need for anybody. We don’t pursue a religion-based approach there. If Christian groups and others are in need of protection, their first protector will be Turkey,” he said.
Greek Cyprus should correct Enosis decision
Çelik also commented on the ongoing talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, which have been stalled due to the latter’s decision to allow in schools the celebration of a 1950 referendum, when Greek Cypriots voted to unite the island with Greece, which is known as “Enosis” in Greek.
“Greek Cyprus should not act like that if we really want to the establishment of a new state based on peace on two constituent states. The decision on “Enosis” shows that they are not moving in accordance with the spirit of the ongoing negotiations. This is the image they need to correct. And our European friends have to impose pressure on Greek Cyprus for this,” he added.
Greece move will be recorded in our national memory
Speaking about Greece’s recent decision not to extradite eight fugitive troops linked to the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), Çelik stressed that he made it clear to Greek officials that “this is one of the turning points of the Republic of Turkey, our state and our history. We will never forget who stood with us and against us.”
This is not a sole judicial issue, he said, underlining that a negative decision would be regarded as an unfriendly move by Greece. “We will never forget the support we received but we will never forget the denial of it. This will be recorded in our national memory,” he said.
Cooperation with Poland on FETÖ
Çelik underlined that his talks with Polish officials included Turkey’s call for action on existing FETÖ organizations and activities in Poland.
He suggested to his Polish counterparts that the FETÖ-linked educational institutions should be transferred to Turkey or to establish a joint mechanism to run them. He said the Polish authorities were willing to cooperate on the matter.