Turkey warns US, Russia over arms supply to Syrian Kurds

Turkey warns US, Russia over arms supply to Syrian Kurds

Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
Turkey warns US, Russia over arms supply to Syrian Kurds

In this Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, military reinforcements for Iraqi anti-terrorism forces arrive at the Ramadi Stadium after regaining control of the complex and the neighboring al-Bugleeb area. AP Photo

Turkey’s prime minister has lashed out at both the United States and Russia for supplying weapons and support to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syria in its bid to fight extremist jihadists, raising concerns that the arms could be used against Turkey by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an affiliate of the PYD. 

Turkey summoned the United States’ ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, on Oct. 13 to the Foreign Ministry to convey Ankara’s strong reaction over the airdropping of ammunition to the PYD late Oct. 11. A similar message was scheduled to be conveyed to Russia later on Oct. 13. 

“We have expressed this to the U.S. and Russia in the clearest way. This is an issue of national security for us. Everybody perfectly knows how we take action when it’s about our national security, just like we did on the night of July 23, when we attacked the PKK and Daesh,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told Ankara bureau chiefs of newspapers on Oct. 12. Davutoğlu used the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as he recalled Turkey’s launch of a comprehensive military operation against ISIL and the PKK.

Davutoğlu’s reaction came as the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that a U.S. cargo plane airdropped some logistical material to the PYD late Oct. 11 in line with Washington’s plans to reinforce the Syrian Kurds in their fight against ISIL in Syria. 

“The aircraft delivery includes small arms ammunition to resupply the local forces” to enable them to continue operations against ISIL, Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith told Anadolu Agency on Oct. 13. Smith said the “successful” airdrop was conducted by a “U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft flying from the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility” and added that all aircraft exited the drop area safely. Like the U.S., Russia is also in close contact with the PYD, but there are no confirmed reports about arms supplies from Moscow. 

“I have instructed the foreign minister on this. Necessary diplomatic initiatives are being taken and our message is that ‘We don’t and never will approve of such a thing,’” he said. 

‘These weapons will be destroyed’

Recalling that ISIL was now using the sophisticated weapons Washington had supplied to the Iraqi army a year ago, Davutoğlu indirectly addressed the U.S., saying: “When you provide weapons to a group, you should also be able to foresee whose hands these weapons could go to later. At the moment, nobody can assure us that these weapons delivered to the PYD will not go to the PKK. If we find out that these weapons are taken into the northern Iraq and used there, we will destroy them wherever they are. Nobody should expect understanding on this issue. These weapons will harm our soldiers, police and civilian citizens,” Davutoğlu said.   

Turkish prime minister underlined that Turkey will take all necessary measures in the event of any infiltration from Syria into Turkey or the transportation of any ammunition “just like the Turkish army is doing in northern Iraq.” “I want to announce this with clarity.” 

PKK, PYD indistinguishable from each other

Recalling that the situation in the region and in Turkey had changed as the PKK resumed its violent acts against the Turkish army, Davutoğlu said: “Five or six months ago when there were no PKK attacks against Turkey, allied countries’ intention to arm the PYD could be seen in a certain frame. It was not right but had a sort of a meaning. The crisis in Syria is a Syrian crisis until an attack targets Turkey. [If] the PYD or the al-Assad regime were to commit an act against Turkey, necessary actions would be taken. We have made clear that we will have no tolerance.”