YPG controls 20 percent of Syria: Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu
Ali Kayalar - ISTANBUL
The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), considered a terror group by Turkey, controls 20 percent of Syria, which points to a “very dangerous” situation, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said.
“Not even one Kurd is returning to the places controlled by the YPG. The terror group pressures the people living in the regions it controls … The YPG has taken everything from them, even their IDs,” Çavuşoğlu told a group of journalists in Istanbul on Nov. 17.
“Turkey has been a target of the YPG, which has fired rockets at Turkish border posts from Afrin. Afrin poses a serious threat to our own security,” he said.
Çavuşoğlu particularly urged the YPG to pull back from cities with large Arab populations such as Manbij and Raqqa.
The United States has partnered with the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but Ankara sees it as organically linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and therefore as a “terrorist group.”
On the future of Syria, Çavuşoğlu stressed the importance of writing a new constitution.
“To hold an election, Syria needs a constitution, an electoral code and other legislation. The Syrians should do it together. They should draft a constitution together. If they need any assistance international commissions such as the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe can help, or any other group,” he said.
Regarding war crimes committed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and use of chemical weapons in the country, Çavuşoğlu said he was in touch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over the issue.
“I spoke with Lavrov on the phone and he said Russia is open to any reliable investigation. I think the U.N. is the most reliable institution and I think that Russia should accept that. We will talk on the issue when we meet soon,” he noted.
Çavuşoğlu will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as well as Lavrov on Nov. 19 ahead of a summit in the Russian resort of Sochi to talk about the Syrian conflict.
The minister also commented on current tense U.S.-Turkey relations, saying U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are “very good friends.”
“Trump is a very open and sincere. But since he took over, the U.S. has been facing internal challenges ... He had to dismiss many allies. He has been working with the same military people and same people on the ground. We have some bilateral issues. It has not been easy. But maintaining dialogue and keeping dialogue open is important … I cannot say I am disappointed by Trump, but we were frustrated during the administration of [former U.S. President Barack] Obama,” Çavuşoğlu said.
One of the issues clouding ties between Ankara and Washington is the case of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, widely believed to have masterminded last year’s failed coup attempt in Turkey. Çavuşoğlu stressed that Turkey is expecting his extradition.
“We have submitted all evidence that he [Gülen] was behind the failed coup. U.S. officials gave us information that Kemal Batmaz [a key Gülenist figure identified to have been at the Akıncı Air Base on the night of the coup attempt] contacted him. We have asked them to extradite him and we have also requested a temporary arrest and a full investigation,” he said.
“We have to go through with this investigation. He has been threatening us [Turkey]. We never let anyone threaten an ally in Turkey. But Gülen’s organization has been violating American law. He has also infiltrated into the American system,” Çavuşoğlu added.