Turkey, US in fresh spat over terror support
AFP photoNATO allies Turkey and the United States have engaged in a fresh spat after the former criticized its long-standing partner for providing weapons and thus supporting the Syria-based Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is considered a terror organization by Ankara.
“NATO allies must stand with their partners in Syria, not with terrorist organizations,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a statement in Ankara on Dec. 29.
Erdoğan once again slammed the U.S.-led international coalition’s failure to provide military support for Turkey’s ongoing al-Bab operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“You sent arms to terror organizations, but then say, ‘We sent ammunition, not arms.” We don’t buy that or accept it. Even though we are partners in NATO, you are giving this support to terrorist organizations, not us. Are the terrorist organizations your partner in NATO? If we are strategic partners in NATO, then you should stand with us,” he said.
Tension between the two countries rose after Erdoğan harshly criticized the U.S. for allegedly providing support to ISIL, the PYD and its armed wing, People’s Protection Units (YPG), in a statement on Dec. 27. He said Turkey had evidence of this support but did not provide detailed information.
Washington’s first response came from State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner, who categorized Erdoğan’s accusations as “ludicrous.” “I don’t know where that comes from,” he said.
Toner also denied that the U.S. had provided weapons to the YPG. “So we do provide tactical support to the Syrian Democratic Forces. There’s no surprise there. We’ve been very transparent about that.”
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a separate statement on Dec. 28 denying the accusations. “The United States government is not supporting DAESH. The USG did not create or support DAESH in the past.
Assertions the United States government is supporting DAESH are not true,” said the statement, using an Arabic acronym for the jihadist group.
“The United States government has not provided weapons or explosives to the YPG or the PKK – period. We repeatedly have condemned PKK terrorist attacks and the group’s reprehensible violence in Turkey,” it added.
US provides weapons to YPG, period: Çavuşoğlu
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu subsequently responded to the embassy in comments to pro-government news channel A Haber. “The U.S. has been giving arms to the YPG, period,” the minister said, referring to the wording of the U.S. embassy statement.
“The reason why the YPG is putting pressure on the U.S. is because they want to bridge their terror cantons. The U.S. wants to use the YPG for its Raqqa offensive,” the minister said. Çavuşoğlu said the YPG wanted Turkey to fail in its al-Bab offensive because they want to bridge the two cantons through that region.
Washington had told Turkey that the al-Bab operation could “cast a shadow” on the upcoming Raqqa offensive because it will “distract attention,” the minister said. None of the coalition members using Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base have been providing military support to Turkey’s Euphrates Shield Operation, he said.
‘Where is NATO?’ asks Erdoğan
While Turkey was facing threats along its borders with Syria and even bombs, “NATO was almost completely [absent],” the president noted.
“Today, we do not see the slightest support for our operation from either NATO or allied nations that have power in the region. The coalition supposedly established to fight [ISIL] is not offering any contribution to the operation on al-Bab, which has dealt the biggest casualties to [ISIL] today,” Erdoğan said.