US support for terrorists in Syria ‘tragedy,' says Turkish presidential spokesperson
In an interview with CNN's Becky Anderson over phone, İbrahim Kalın said Turkey had tried very hard for a long time to reach a deal with the U.S. about Syria.
He recalled that Turkey raised its concerns about national security at every platform and said it cannot let formation of a terror corridor along the Turkey-Syria border.
But unfortunately, our calls have fallen on deaf ears,” Kalın said.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.
“Now what is ironic and what is tragedy is the fact that the United States is arming and supporting a Marxist-Leninist separatist terrorist organization in Syria [to fight against ISIL],” Kalın said.
He emphasized that Turkey offered other elements such as the Free Syrian Army, other local elements, Turkmen, non-PKK Kurds and Turkish soldiers to fight against ISIL.
YPG/PKK used ISIL as ‘bargaining chip
Kalın also addressed Turkey’s recent anti-terror operation in northern Syria.
He said: “This is serious because YPG/PKK in Syria is gaining ground, occupying non-Kurdish Arab towns, forcing people to flee, getting all these weapons from the United States free of charge, all in the name of fighting ISIS.” Kalın was using another acronym for ISIL.
On Oct. 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
“But the reality is that as we have seen on the second day of the Peace Spring Operation, they let about 800 ISIS prisoners free. Why did they do that?” Kalın questioned.
“Because they used the ISIS prisoners to blackmail the United States and Europeans claiming that without them, the fight against ISIS will not be successful,” he said and added that the situation was the opposite and the YPG/PKK terror group used ISIL as a “bargaining chip”.
Kalın said YPG/PKK’s actions on the ground also proved that they were not genuinely interested in fighting ISIL but rather creating some kind of an autonomous region with a clearly separatist agenda.
Responding to the claims that Turkey-backed forces on the ground committed war crimes, Kalın said Turkey “takes allegations of war crimes or any kind of executions very seriously.”
“Our soldiers have always been very careful. The militia that we support in Syria also have been careful in not attacking the civilians,” he said.
On the concerns of some people, countries, and analysts that the civilians would be harmed, hundreds of thousands of people would be fleeing, the Kurdish people would be attacked, demography would change, Kalın said: “None of that happened.”
He later recalled the violence in Morocco and Iraq’s Mosul.
“Compare it with what happened in Morocco where 4,000 civilians were killed, compare it with what happened in Mosul where anywhere between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians were killed in the operations. They've been recorded, they've been documented in reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.”
Referring to another report by these two human rights organizations, Kalın said the YPG/PKK amounted to war crimes by razing villages to the ground and forcing people to flee in Syrian areas such as Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain which Turkey cleared of terrorists during Operation Peace Spring.
Responding to the YPG/PKK’s claims that the religious minorities have been suffering in the areas held by Turkish-backed forces in Syria, Kalın said the terror group was using the Christian minorities as a selling point to the American public and to the Trump administration “as if they were the guardians of this community.”
“To the contrary, just listen carefully to what the Christian original domestic Syrian Christian communities have been saying very loudly. Listen to the president of the World Aramaic Council of Assyrian Aramaic and Assyrian Christians. In fact, they've been saying that it's the YPG that kidnapped Christian children and enlisted them in their ranks to fight against Turkey and other opposition forces. … Just recently, they bombed a church and tried to blame it on Turkey,” Kalın said.
He underlined that Turkey protected the Christian minorities when it opened its doors to almost 4 million Syrian refugees over the last five or six years.
“We've never asked anybody about their religion or ethnicity or their region. Kurds have come, Arabs have come, Sunni Muslims have come, Christians have come to Turkey.
“Just listen to what our own Christian minorities have been saying over the last 10 days in Turkey, the Armenian Church, the Aramaic church, the Syrian church, the Syria, these are some of the oldest churches in the world.
“And they've been praising our Operation Peace Spring and telling the truth. So, instead of listening to the original people who suffered under the oppression of YPG, now, you're giving the floor to people to spread this nonsense,” Kalın concluded.