Turkey, US row over ‘terrorist’ PYD grows

Turkey, US row over ‘terrorist’ PYD grows

Turkey, US row over ‘terrorist’ PYD grows

AA Photo

The row between Turkey and the United States over the definition of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) has grown, with Turkey’s foreign minister stating that allied countries needed to make up their minds as to who their partners were in the fight against the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

Stating that it was not rational for some countries not to regard the PYD as a terrorist organization when all countries were designating it as such, Çavuşoğlu said allied countries needed to make up their minds.

“Therefore, our friends and allies need to make their minds up. Are we [one of] the partner countries in Syria in the fight against Daesh or are terror organizations?” said Çavuşoğlu on Feb. 9 in Budapest during a joint press conference with his counterpart Peter Szijjarto, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.

Turkey regards the PYD and its military wing, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terror organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. 

One day ago, U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby reiterated the U.S.’ stance that it does not perceive the PYD as a terrorist organization, while adding that it understands ally Turkey’s concerns regarding the organization. 

“We don’t, as you know, recognize the PYD as a terrorist organization,” Kirby said Feb. 8 during a daily press briefing, adding that they knew and understood that Turkey recognized the PYD as a terrorist organization.

“Even the best of friends aren’t going to agree on everything. Kurdish fighters have been some of the most successful in going after Daesh inside Syria,” said Kirby.  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denounced a visit by the U.S. envoy to the coalition against ISIL, Brett McGurk, to Kurdish-controlled northern Syria, underlining the “mistrust” the visit has created in Ankara over the nature of Turkey’s “partnership” with the U.S.

Look, [U.S. Vice President Joe] Biden arrived with an assistant. He is a national security official whose name has earlier ben cited with Mr. Obama too. Just during the meetings in Geneva, he travels to Kobane. He receives a plaque from a so-called general in Kobane. How will we trust you? Am I your partner or are the terrorists in Kobane?” Erdoğan asked, while speaking with reporters on Feb. 5 en route from Dakar to Istanbul as he wrapped up a Latin America tour that covered Chile, Peru and Ecuador.

Kirby said they had provided support, mostly through the air, to the PYD, which he said would continue.

Çavuşoğlu said Turkey had told the U.S. multiple times how members of the PKK were embedded inside the PYD, noting that they had provided photographs and names of the people in question.

Çavuşoğlu said they said told the same thing to their U.S. counterparts when McGurk met Polat Can in Kobane last week, adding that Can was a member of the PKK from Kandil Mountain, known as the PKK’s headquarters. 

Çavuşoğlu said “it was not acceptable” that the U.S. had designated the PKK as a terrorist organization but did not extend the same status to the PYD.

“Shall we call it naiveté to say the least … but this is not acceptable,” he said. 

Çavuşoğlu said there was an understanding in Western countries to ignore any terrorist organization that did not directly threaten them, likening such groups to a snake.

“But that snake will come tomorrow and bite you, too. Countries that have supported terrorist organizations have been hit by the same terrorist organizations,” he added. 

Meanwhile, Kurdish participation in the talks to settle the Syrian conflict will help prevent a disruption of the peace process, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Feb. 8 after a meeting between the Russian president’s Middle East and Africa envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, and the leader of the PYD, Salih Muslim, TASS News Agency reported.

“The sides thoroughly discussed the situation in Syria and issues of the establishment of an intra-Syrian dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations,” the ministry said. 

“The Russian side reiterated the necessity of the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 and the proper representation of the Syrian opposition, including Kurdish forces, at the talks with the Syrian government delegation,” it said.