PM Davutoğlu warns YPG, says Turkey will ‘do what’s necessary’
İsmet Berkan - THE HAGUE
If Turkey’s security is threatened by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) military wing, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), then Ankara will “do what is necessary,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has stated.
“As I have said, the link between the YPG and the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK is obvious. If the YPG threatens our security then we will do what is necessary,” told Davutoğlu reporters flying from The Hague to Ankara on Feb. 10.
Turkey regards the PYD and the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed PKK, with which it has been in armed clashes since the 1980s.
Davutoğlu said two groups in particular are exploiting the chaotic situation in Iraq and Syria: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the PKK. Referring to the U.S.’s statement that the PYD is an “important partner” in the fight against ISIL, Davutoğlu said one should not justify a terrorist organization just because it is fighting against another one, citing the example of the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra.
“Just like [al-Nusra], the PKK cannot earn legitimacy [this way],” he added.
While tension between two NATO allies – Turkey and the U.S. – remain high due to differences over the PYD, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner stressed that the U.S.’s commitment to its alliance with Turkey should not be questioned.
“Turkey is a NATO ally, a strong partner within the anti-Daesh coalition and we appreciate their support,” Toner said on Feb. 10, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
“We coordinate closely with them across a variety of fronts and all lines of effort ... we’re going to continue those discussions [on the PYD] moving forward, but I think no one should question our commitment to our alliance with Turkey,” he added.
On the same day, the U.S. envoy to the coalition against ISIL, Brett McGurk, said Turkey had made good strides in securing its border with Syria.
McGurk said Turkish officials “are doing quite a lot” to ensure that ISIL fighters cannot exploit the border, including building berms, increasing border patrols, improving intelligence sharing, and carrying out cross-border artillery strikes.
“This is having an impact. It is much harder for ISIL fighters to get into Syria now than it was even six months ago and once they’re in it is much harder for them to get out,” McGurk said in his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Feb. 10.
“We know from their [ISIL] own publications that they’re now telling their fighters not to come to Syria, but to go elsewhere, to Libya for example,” he told lawmakers.
“That’s our objective – to stop them getting in. And if they do get in they’ll never get out because they will die in Iraq and Syria,” McGurk added.