US urges PYD to not cross Euphrates, lends support to Turkish ops

US urges PYD to not cross Euphrates, lends support to Turkish ops

US urges PYD to not cross Euphrates, lends support to Turkish ops

AFP photo

The United States has firmly urged Syrian Kurdish groups to return to the eastern shore of the Euphrates River if it wants to continue to receive support, in line with constant calls from Turkish officials, while also expressing Washington’s support to the ongoing Jarablus operation by the Turkish military along with moderate rebel groups. 

“We have made it absolutely clear that they [pro-Kurdish forces] must go back across the [Euphrates] River. They cannot and will not, under no circumstances, get American support if they do not keep that commitment,” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told reporters at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Aug. 24 in the Turkish capital. 

Biden is the highest-level U.S. official to visit Turkey since the July 15 failed coup attempt, the alleged perpetrator of which, cleric Fethullah Gülen, resides in Pennsylvania, with insistent requests from Turkey for his extradition. Biden visited the Turkish parliament, which was bombed by the coup plotters, and then held a meeting with Yıldırım and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Although the primary issue the two parties raised was Gülen’s extradition to Turkey, Biden and Yıldırım also delivered messages on the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as the visit coincided with the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) cross-border operation into northern Syria.

In that regard, Turkey’s concern that the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the U.S.’ primary ally on the ground in Syria, has long been seeking to increase its influence and the territory it controls west of the Euphrates River was one of the major issues the two parties addressed. 

For his part Yıldırım made clear that Turkey and the U.S. had come to an agreement that the PYD and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), should return east of the river following the successful operation to push ISIL off Manbij. Yıldırım also called on the U.S. to reassess its support for the YPG to prevent an increase in danger, recalling once again that the PYD and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were same. 

“We have a full agreement with the United States on what’s happening, which is that the PYD shouldn’t come west of [the] Euphrates or engage in activities west of the river. We assessed this in our meeting and once again see [the] determination of the U.S. about the issue, so [the] PYG will not have [a] presence in the west of the Euphrates. So our general take is that we know for a fact that they [the PYD] are working hand-in-hand with the PKK,” Yıldırım said. 

The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. Underlining that Turkey’s main policy towards Syria was to keep its southern neighbor’s territorial integrity, Yıldırım vowed Turkey would not accept the creation of a new Kurdish entity inside Syria. 

On Turkey’s military operation inside Syria pushing elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to liberate Jarablus from ISIL, Biden hailed Turkey’s continued determinism against the jihadists in the aftermath of the July 15 failed coup attempt, which dealt a huge blow to the TSK. 

‘The best friend of Turkey is the US’ 

Biden also commented on the July 15 failed coup attempt and underlined that he was sent to Turkey by U.S. President Barack Obama to show American support and solidarity with Turkey’s people and democracy. “Thank God you were not at your office at the parliament,” Biden told Yıldırım, while sharing his impressions about the ruined parliament. 

“Don’t feel offended, but, I must say that the best friend of Turkey is the United States,” he said, adding they immediately stood with Turkey on the coup night. “Let me be clear, I want to ease any speculation, some of which I have heard, as to whether or not the U.S. had some advance warning, some fore knowledge of complicity,” he said.

Gülen’s extradition must not prolong 

On Turkey’s expectation of Gülen’s extradition, Biden said, “I understand the intense feeling your government and the people of Turkey have about him [Gülen]. We are cooperating with the Turkish authorities,” recalling ongoing technical works undertaken between the two countries’ justice ministries in Ankara. 

The U.S. had “no intention of protecting a person who harms” its ally, Biden said, but made clear the decision would be given by the U.S. courts upon the evidence provided by Turkey. 

“We are cooperating with Turkish authorities, our legal experts are working right now with [their] Turkish counterparts on [the] production of and evaluation of material and evidence that needs to be supplied to an American court to meet requirements under our law and the extradition treaty, and we’ll continue to do so as you continue to bring forward additional information,” he stressed. 

Yıldırım on the other side made clear that the strategic partnership between the two countries necessitated the U.S. to hand over Gülen to Turkey, which could turn the negative feelings towards the U.S. positive.
“Our greatest expectation would be that we don’t lose any time conducting these processes and I believe the final expectation [is] clear,” he added.