PKK presence in Sinjar threat to Turkey: Mattis

PKK presence in Sinjar threat to Turkey: Mattis

WASHINGTON – Anadolu Agency
PKK presence in Sinjar threat to Turkey: Mattis

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) presence in northern Iraq’s Sinjar district is a threat to Turkey, United States Defense Secretary James Mattis said on March 27.

“There is a PKK threat in Sinjar, across the border in northern Iraq against Turkey,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, adding that the group is a designated terrorist organization by the U.S. and the U.S. wants the group to pull out of the area.

Describing Turkey as a NATO ally, Mattis also said the U.S. stands with Ankara. The defense secretary said he preferred direct communication with Turkish authorities instead of through the media because it is “a very sensitive issue for Turks,” referring to PKK militants.

There are approximately 3,000 PKK militants in Sinjar, where they are being trained by several military experts, according to Yalman Haceroğlu, the director-general of Turkmeneli TV, who interviewed a PKK member in the area.

On March 25, Iraqi troops were deployed in Sinjar after members of the PKK terrorist group withdrew from the district a day earlier.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stressed his country would not allow Sinjar to become a stronghold for the PKK.

Additionally, Mattis said there has been no move against Manbij by Turkish forces so far, adding that dialogue continues with Ankara in a response to a question about Turkey’s possible military operations against Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants in Manbij.

“We have open dialogue with the Turkish government right now,” he said..

“We are working it forward. We are not stuck on anything right now. So far, as you have noticed, there has been no move on Manbij,” said Mattis.

Turkish troops launched a military operation Jan. 20 to clear terrorist groups from Afrin, which was liberated earlier this month amid growing terror threats posed from the region to Turkey.

Ankara said it might also extend its operation further east to Manbij, unless the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD)/PKK terrorist group leaves the strategically located city.

However, U.S. military support for YPG in Manbij has strained ties between Ankara and Washington and has led to fears of potential clashes between troops of the two NATO allies.

There are approximately 2,000 American troops in the city.