Turkish president questions relations with US over Syrian Kurdish groups

Turkish president questions relations with US over Syrian Kurdish groups

Turkish president questions relations with US over Syrian Kurdish groups

A group of coalition forces, which includes People's Protection Units (YPG) Women's Protection Units (YPJ), Sutoro militia, a pro-government Syriac Christian movement, and other forces, monitor the area in al-Hol in the Syrian Hasakeh province, some 650 kms northeast of Damascus, near the Iraqi border on November 2, 2015. AFP PHOTO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has publicly raised questions over the nature of bilateral relations with the United States, as Washington has not categorized Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as a terrorist organization.

“Are you on our side or the side of the terrorist organizations?” Erdoğan asked the U.S. on Feb. 10, as tensions between the two NATO allies have flared over the PYD, which Washington supports in its struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

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.

“Hey America, you cannot make us recognize neither the PKK nor the PYD and the YPG,” Erdoğan said. 

“We know these [organizations] very well. We know Daesh very well too,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL. “But since you haven’t been able to recognize them up to this day, the region is drenched in blood,” he said.

“What kind of partnership is this? They are keeping silent in front of us but in our absence they say ‘We don’t look it that way,’” said the Turkish president.

Asked about the difference in opinion with Turkey on Feb. 8, U.S. State Department Spokesman John Kirby said: “This is not a new concern, as I said that the Turks have proffered. And we don’t, as you know, recognize the PYD as a terrorist organization.” 

On Feb. 9, Kirby confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass met senior Turkish officials earlier in the same day, although he declined to describe what they discussed. The spokesman also said the United States has not changed its views on the PYD. 

“Turkey’s unease over the U.S. stance concerning the definition of the PYD and the YPG has been clearly conveyed to the U.S. ambassador,” said Turkish diplomatic sources, speaking under customary condition of anonymity.