‘US-YPG ties are tactical,’ US defense minister assures his Turkish counterpart

‘US-YPG ties are tactical,’ US defense minister assures his Turkish counterpart

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
‘US-YPG ties are tactical,’ US defense minister assures his Turkish counterpart Washington is in a “tactical” relationship with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Ankara considers as linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık in a letter, according to ministry sources.

The U.S. is in “forced cooperation with the YPG on the ground in order to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] in Syria,” Turkish Defense Ministry sources quoted Mattis as saying in a recent letter sent to Işık last week.

Mattis said Washington wants to be transparent in its ties with the YPG, according to the sources. 

Mattis listed the arms provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance dominated by YPG militants, saying that weapons delivered in May were for the Raqqa offensive.

The U.S. minister also assured Ankara that arms sent to SDF fighters would be collected right after ISIL is defeated in Syria, according to the sources.

U.S.-Turkey ties are part of a strategic partnership that goes far beyond just defeating ISIL, Mattis reportedly told Işık.

The U.S. will regularly inform Turkey regarding the issue, he said, assuring Işık that American experts will work in Syria in order to ensure the arms stay in the country. 

Pentagon on May 30 said it had begun to transfer small arms and vehicles to the Kurdish elements of the SDF.

When announcing the decision, Pentagon said the U.S. is “keenly aware” of Turkey’s security concerns.

But, the Turkish government stresses that the YPG is an offshoot of the PKK, which it believes that arms sent to the group in Syria will eventually end up in the hands of the PKK, and has long pressed Washington to stop its support for the group.

Yet, the U.S. informing Turkey regarding the arms is not “sufficient” for Ankara since “it does not solve the problem,” Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said. 

It is a proposal which aims to minimize threats posed to Turkey, Kalın told reporters late June 21. Turkey categorically disapproves of the arms support sent to the YPG, Kalın reiterated. 

“This policy, which was launched by the U.S. during the [Barack] Obama period and now continues under [Donald] Trump, poses serious risks not only for Turkey but also for the future of Syria,” he said.

The policy has defects in several aspects such as the possibility of harming the demographic structure due to ethnic tension, raising terrorist organizations and threatening Syria’s territorial integrity, he stated.