Former US envoy to Syria acknowledges PKK, PYD link
WASHINGTON – Anadolu Agency
AFP photoA former U.S. ambassador to Damascus on May 17 acknowledged the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) link with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a topic that has recently caused a row between Turkey and the United States.
“The YPG [the People’s Protection Unit], the militia that the U.S. is supporting, is absolutely affiliated with the PKK,” Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Damascus, said at a Senate panel on Syria while noting the militant group’s separatist motivations in Syria. The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD.
Ford’s comments were in response to a line of questions by Republican Senator Marco Rubio regarding the goals of the PYD and Turkey’s concerns about it.
Rubio asked Ford whether YPG militants are willing to clear the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from the Mambij pocket, a 98-kilometer area in northwestern Syria bordering Turkey, in order to establish an autonomous zone combining the small cantons it declared in 2014 in the north of the war-torn country.
“Absolutely they want to take that pocket and create a contiguous region. There is no question about that. And that is why the Turks have reacted badly,” Ford said.
Turkey has been calling on the U.S. to stop supporting the PYD but Washington has provided air power and small arms ammunitions to the militant group, saying the PYD and the YPG are “reliable” partners in the fight against ISIL.
The PYD combined the self-declared Kobane canton in central northern Syria with the Jazeera canton in the northeast after it captured Tal Abyad and the villages around al-Hasakah province from ISIL early last year.
Ford added that although the PYD have not publicly said it wants to create a state, “it might very well be” their next step to declare independence.
He said there were different groups other than the PYD that were fighting ISIL and they “have not received support” like the PYD.