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DIPLOMACY >‘US has to make a decision between Turkey and PYD’

Deniz Zeyrek - ANKARA

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The U.S.-led international coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is devoid of any plan to defeat the jihadist organization, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş has said while reiterating Ankara’s unease over Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). 

“Turkey’s priority on Syria is [protecting] its national security line. Our sensitivity toward the PYD has not been taken seriously by the U.S.,” he said.

“The anti-ISIL coalition is paying the price for its weak approach. I still don’t think they have a plan to defeat ISIL,” Kurtulmuş, who is also the government spokesman, told the Ankara bureau chiefs of some media outlets on May 31. 

Kurtulmuş’s statement is the latest example of Ankara’s growing disturbance with the way the U.S. has been handling the anti-ISIL fight in northern Syria and its choice to select the PYD as its main ally, although Turkey describes the group as an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), entailing that it is also a “terrorist” group. 

“We have always talked with Americans and our other allies that the region close to Turkey to the west of Jarablus constitutes a national security line for Turkey. We have told them that if the PYD or ISIL crosses this point, it would threaten Turkey’s security. Unfortunately, this sensitivity of ours has not been seriously addressed,” Kurtulmuş said. The deputy prime minister reiterated that Turkey would not remain indifferent when rockets are falling on its border towns. 
 
Turkey has told Washington that the PYD would be crossing a red line if it attempted to cross to the west of the Euphrates to “expand its area of influence.” “At the end, it’s a decision that the U.S. will make. Meaning, will it continue its long-standing NATO alliance or will it establish new alliance with forces which are known to be against Turkey?” Kurtulmuş asked. 

A joint operation by Turkish and American special forces against ISIL inside Syria could take place, he said, without giving details. “A joint operation could be conducted to protect the Turkish border, only if necessary. This should not be interpreted that it will be carried out today or tomorrow. There is a given decision but we aren’t talking about its implementation.” 

Kurtulmuş’s statement came after a U.S. official said Washington had not received any proposal for a joint military operation against ISIL from Turkey. 


Int’l coalition has no plan 

Kurtulmuş said the anti-ISIL coalition had failed to take a concrete and practical position on defeating the jihadist group. “The international coalition is now paying the price for its weak and characterless stance over the occupation of Mosul. The second problem is that they have no idea what to do and how to stop ISIL. They had no such plans. Let me put it bluntly, they still have no plans to defeat ISIL,” he said. 
  

New constitution priority 

Informing media representatives over the priorities of the new government, Kurtulmuş recalled that their main option was to adopt the presidential system through a comprehensive constitutional reform. “We consider the presidential system as an efficient means of organizing the executive. There needs to be a ground for this in parliament. We will exert efforts to keep the channels of dialogue open until the last moment to have constitutional amendments discussed through a different perspective,” he said. 

Undertaking a limited charter change to allow the president to restore his ties with his political party would be the last option if parliament does not endorse constitutional reforms, he said. 

Asked whether the government would opt for snap polls, Kurtulmuş said: “We have a new parliament. The conditions for early elections could come to the agenda when the harmony between the people and the parliament is broken. Early polls are not on the agenda now.”

In the meantime, Kurtulmuş corrected his words about the relationship between the president and heads of the justice as saying, “The word subordinate was not right when I said the ‘heads of the judiciary are subordinate to the president.’ It should rather be connected. I tried to recall Article 104 of the constitution.” Kurtulmuş’s remarks came after strong reaction from opposition parties, which criticized the three heads of Turkey’s top courts for accompanying President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on a domestic visit.

June/01/2016

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