PYD should withdraw, Turkish PM tells US as shelling continues
ANKARAThe Turkish military on Feb. 14 continued to pound Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) positions in Syria’s Azaz district, in the countryside north of Aleppo, as Ankara told Washington that the Kurdish forces should withdraw from their positions.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Feb. 13 that he had informed U.S. Vice President Joe Biden about Turkey’s concerns via telephone, adding that Biden said he would pass on his remarks to the “relevant parties.”
Turkish security sources, speaking to the semi-official Anadolu Agency on Feb. 14, said the strike on PYD positions using howitzers stationed on the Turkish side of the border were made “in retaliation, within the rules of engagement declared earlier,” adding that the “necessary response will be given to anyone targeting Turkey.”
According to the military, the Akcabağlar base in the Turkish border province of Kilis was shelled on Feb. 13 by “PYD/PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party]” forces.
“We will take every necessary step to ensure an environment that guarantees Turkey’s security; an environment without Daesh, the Syrian regime, or the PYD,” Davutoğlu said.
Turkey and the United States remain divided over the PYD, which Ankara sees as a terrorist group, but which Washington considers an ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Biden visited Istanbul last month to discuss the Syrian crisis, meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Davutoğlu.
The prime minister said close cooperation between the two countries is “necessary.”
“During [Biden’s] visit, we agreed on some issues ... Firstly, the YPG [the armed wing of the PYD] should not cross the Euphrates River and should not do anything to bother Turkey. Secondly, the Russian offensive on Aleppo should not turn into something that would trigger a wave of immigration. Thirdly, we should jointly support the [Syrian] opposition’s offensive against Daesh on the Marea-Jarabulus line. When Biden asked about the latest developments, I told him there has been no development regarding these three fundamental principles,” Davutoğlu added.
He again demanded that the YPG withdraw from Azaz and the nearby Menagh military air base and warned the group against using it as a base to attack Turkey or Syrian opposition forces.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan said Turkey will no longer be in a “defensive position” over maintaining its national security interests amid developments in Syria.
“Can any team play defensively at all times but still win a match? … You can win nothing by playing defensively and you can lose whatever you have. There is a very dynamic situation in the region and one has to read this situation properly. One should not become withdrawn because of concerns and fears,” Akdoğan told private broadcaster Kanal 7 on Feb. 14.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby urged Turkey to halt its cross-border artillery fire and called on the YPG and its affiliated forces “not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory.”
“Turkey and the YPG share a serious threat of ISIL poised just to the east of the Azaz corridor,” said Kirby.
“We continue to encourage all parties to focus on this common threat, which has not subsided, and to work towards a cessation of hostilities,” he added.
The Syrian regime, meanwhile, condemned Turkey for the shelling and urged the United Nations to act.
“The foreign ministry strongly condemns the repeated Turkish crimes and attacks against the Syrian people and Syria’s territorial integrity,” Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Feb. 14.
The ministry called on the U.N. Security Council to “put an end to the crimes of the Turkish regime,” SANA added.