US gives PYD arms it doesn’t sell to Turkey, Erdoğan says
NEW YORKThe United States gives weapons to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) for free but does not want to sell weapons to Turkey for a price, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, speaking after the Trump administration withdrew a proposal to let his security guards buy $1.2 million in U.S.-made weapons.
Saying that Washington arms “terrorists,” referring to the PYD’s armed wing People’s Protection Units (YPG), Erdoğan noted that “both countries need to fight these terrorists.”
“We need to fight these terrorists with the U.S. We are not able to acquire those weapons from the U.S., so why are you giving those weapons to terrorists? That is a question we are asking our friends in the U.S. When these questions are not answered we are saddened, as strategic partners of the U.S.,” he told PBS in New York on Sept. 18.
Earlier this year, the administration told Congress that it planned to allow New Hampshire gunmaker Sig Sauer to sell the weapons, which include hundreds of semi-automatic handguns and ammunition. The notification triggered a period in which Congress could review the deal before final approval is granted. The weapons would have gone to an intermediary in Turkey for use by Erdoğan’s presidential security forces.
However, U.S. lawmakers began to express strong opposition to the sale after violence erupted outside the home of the Turkish ambassador to Washington, during Erdoğan’s visit to U.S. President Donald Trump on May 16. Nineteen people, including 15 identified as Turkish security officials, have since been indicted by a U.S. grand jury in relation to the incident.
The Turkish Embassy has blamed the violence on demonstrators linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which both Turkey and the United States consider a terrorist group. Ankara previously condemned the U.S. for issuing warrants for Erdoğan’s security personnel by summoning U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass to the Foreign Ministry.
The incident was one of several during visits by top Turkish officials to the U.S. that have raised serious questions about the behavior of Turkish security forces on American soil.
In June, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to reject the deal and calling the conduct of the Turkish guards “unprofessional and brutal.” A Senate panel has also approved a measure that would block the sale.
The State Department, in informing Congress that it was formally withdrawing the planned sale, said it was at the request of Sig Sauer, which had requested the license from the U.S. government that is needed to export weapons outside the U.S.
But the U.S. had already quietly put the sale on hold after the incident, and the Trump administration had informed the Turkish government that the sale wouldn’t be allowed to take place. Sig Sauer appeared to have pulled its request for a license from the U.S. government after hearing from the Turks that they no longer expected to purchase the weapons.
Word of the withdrawn sale came as President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson were in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering. Erdoğan arrived in New York on Sept. 18 for the meetings.