Split over PYD continues between US, Turkey

Split over PYD continues between US, Turkey

Split over PYD continues between US, Turkey

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter gestures during a news conference during a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, February 11, 2016. REUTERS Photo

The split between Ankara and Washington over the designation of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) continues to rumble on, though U.S. Secretary of Defence Ash Carter has reiterated that allies “need not always agree” on all topics. 

“We’re not going to agree with them on all matters [but] we staunchly agree with them - and always have - that we oppose terrorism in any form,” Carter said following a NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Feb. 11, adding that Turkey was a good and long-standing ally of the U.S.

“We are working with local forces in defeating ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]; we [will] also continue working with Turkey,” Carter said.        

Carter convened the first-ever gathering of defence ministers of the global coalition against ISIL on Feb. 11 in Brussels. Participants from a total of 49 nations, including the 28 NATO allies, were invited to attend the meeting held in Brussels. 

Ankara and Washington stand on opposing sides regarding the designation of the PYD and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). While Turkey regards the PYD and the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with which it has been in armed clashes since the 1980s, the U.S. sees PYD as an important force in combatting ISIL in Syria.

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said Feb. 11 that the U.S. continued to categorize the PYD as a group fighting ISIL in northern Syria. 

“I mean, what we’ve talked about them [PYD] and continue to categorize them as one of the number of groups in northern Syria, mostly, who are fighting Daesh [ISIL] and focused on fighting Daesh [ISIL] on the ground, and have been effective forces,” said Toner.

“And that’s where our support has come into play with airstrikes mostly, but other forms of support – intelligence and what-have-you,” he added.