Turkey-US discuss Turkish airstrikes in Iraq-Syria

Turkey-US discuss Turkish airstrikes in Iraq-Syria

Turkey-US discuss Turkish airstrikes in Iraq-Syria

AP photo

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a phone conversation late on April 25, after the latter criticized Turkey for bombing Iraq’s Sinjar region and northeastern Syria earlier on the same day.

In Washington, the State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by the air strikes, which were not authorized by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. Turkey is part of the coalition of more than 60 countries.

“We have expressed those concerns with the government of Turkey directly,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in a conference call. “These air strikes were not approved by the coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces.”

Toner said the strikes hurt the coalition’s efforts to go after the militants. 

“We recognize their concerns about the PKK, but these kinds of actions frankly harm the coalition’s efforts to go after ISIL and frankly harm our partners on the ground who are conducting that fight,” he added.

A U.S. military officer accompanied the People’s Protection Units (YPG) commanders on a tour of the sites hit near Syria’s frontier with Turkey after the attack, a Reuters witness said, demonstrating the close partnership.

Turkey on Tuesday carried out a number of airstrikes against PKK targets in Sinjar, Iraq and Karaçok, Syria. In northeast Syria, strikes targeted the Kurdish YPG, which Ankara sees as offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Turkish military said “40 terrorists were killed in northern Iraq and 30 terrorists were killed in northeastern Syria in an airstrike.” The Turkish General Staff said the targets were hit to prevent the group from sending terrorists, arms, ammunition, and explosives to Turkey. In northern Iraq they killed six peshmerga fighters from the autonomous Kurdish government, usually allied with Ankara, in an apparent accident.

The PKK established a presence in Sinjar, bordering Syria, after coming to the aid of its Yazidi population when ISIL militants overran the area in the summer of 2014 and killed and captured thousands of members of the minority faith.

Erdoğan: Turkey to continue operations

Turkey will not let Sinjar become a PKK base and will continue military operations there and in northern Syria “until the last terrorist is eliminated,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Reuters in an interview on April 25.

He said the local Kurdish administration, as well as the U.S. and Russia, had been notified in advance of the strike.

Erdoğan said it was a “source of sadness for us” that five or six Peshmerga forces were killed in the attack despite the warnings.  

“The Turkish military’s operation is absolutely not against Peshmerga forces,” he added. 

Erdoğan also said there were approximately 2,000 PKK members in Iraq’s Sinjar, which he said Turkey “cannot allow to become” a PKK base. Ankara needs to “drain the swamp,” he added.