President Erdoğan says PYD ‘no different than PKK’ for Turkey
AA PhotoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared that the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered by Ankara as a terrorist group, are the same for Turkey.
As a result, he said NATO ally United States should not expect Turkey to approve its support for the PYD, whose armed wing has been struggling to defend the Syrian border town of Kobane against militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“At the moment, the PYD is equal with the PKK for us. It is also a terrorist organization. It would be very wrong for America – with whom we are and allies and who we are together with in NATO – to expect us to say ‘yes’ after openly announcing such support for a terrorist organization. It cannot expect such a thing from us and we cannot say ‘yes’ to such a thing either,” Erdoğan told reporters on board a plane returning from Kabul to Istanbul, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Oct. 19.
He also said the U.S.’s demands regarding the use of the İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey are not yet clear, while he did not exclude the possibility of giving an affirmative response to Washington if they eventually find the demands appropriate.
“The İncirlik issue is a separate issue. What are they asking for with regard to İncirlik? That’s not clear yet. If there is something we deem appropriate, we would discuss it with our security forces and we would say ‘yes.’ But if it is not appropriate, then saying ‘yes’ is not possible for us either,” Erdoğan added.
The president’s remarks came as the idea of supplying arms to the PYD for its fight against ISIL gradually finds more support in the international arena.
Last week, the U.S. State Department made public that a State Department official held direct talks for the first time in the first half of October with a Syrian Kurdish group involved in the fight against ISIL in Syria, including in the besieged town of Kobane. Following the talks, there was an upsurge in U.S. air strikes on ISIL forces besieging the town, and Kurdish spokespersons said their forces were giving coordinates of the militants’ positions to the U.S.
Earlier this month, the Turkish government vehemently denied statements by U.S. officials that it was allowing U.S. forces to carry out bombing raids from the İncirlik Air Base, saying negotiations were continuing.
In early October, despite presence of a government-led peace process aimed at ending the three-decade long conflict between security forces and the PKK, Erdoğan said the PKK and ISIL are “the same for Turkey.”
“It is wrong to consider them in different ways ... We need to handle them all together on a common ground,” Erdoğan said at the time.
His words prompted the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which over the past two years has been speaking to imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in line with his central role in the peace process, to accuse Erdoğan and the government of “hypocrisy.”