Arming YPG in Syria will harm all, Turkey tells US
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
The U.S.’s arming of a Syrian Kurdish militia is “extremely dangerous” that could one day harm everyone, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday, urging Washington to reverse its “mistake.”
“These weapons could be used against all of humanity, not just Turkey,” Çavuşoğlu said, after the United States began providing arms to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the battle against the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The weapons include AK-47s and small-caliber machine guns, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway stated. This marks the beginning of a campaign to better equip the YPG, which Ankara names “terrorist” due to its links with he outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). U.S. officials have said the weapons deliveries will include heavy machine guns, ammunition, 120mm mortars, armored vehicles and possibly TOW anti-tank missiles.The officials said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.
“Such steps are extremely dangerous for Syria’s unity and territorial integrity,” he said.
“If we are looking for stability in Syria, we should row back from those mistakes,” he said during a press conference with his Slovenian counterpart, Karl Erjavec.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington for the first time on May 16, during which the issue of U.S. support for the YPG was discussed.
Less than a week before the meeting between Erdoğan and Trump, the latter approved arming fighters from the YPG.
“The president clearly expressed our position and concerns during his Washington visit. It was stressed how risky and dangerous the support given to the YPG was,” Çavuşoğlu said.
The Pentagon on May 30 said it had begun to transfer small arms and vehicles to the Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance fighting ISIL and dominated by YPG fighters.
In announcing the decision, the Pentagon said the U.S. is “keenly aware” of Turkey’s security concerns.
Turkey says the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, YPG are linked to the PKK and calls on its allies to cease cooperating with them.
The PKK is also outlawed by the U.S., but Washington believes the YPG is the most effective fighting force against ISIL in Syria, thus causing tensions between the NATO allies.
The U.S.’ weapons transfers began ahead of an upcoming offensive to recapture Raqqa, the last major bastion for ISIL in Syria.
Washington has sought to placate Ankara by saying the weapons will be handed out judiciously and stressing that it will monitor them to make sure they do not go into Turkey.
The SDF has now advanced to within a few kilometers of Raqqa on several fronts, and this month captured the strategic town of Tabqa and the adjacent dam from the jihadists.