YPG renames strategic airbase in northern Syria after PKK leader
Fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG). REUTERS PhotoThe Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have renamed the Menagh air base in northern Syria after the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan, British newspaper The Times reported on Feb. 18.
The YPG, which is the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey refers to as a terrorist organization as it sees it as an offshoot of the PKK, has changed the name of the strategic Menagh air base north of Aleppo to “Serok Apo” or “Leader Apo,” in honor of Öcalan.
The town of Tal Rifaat, whose capture Kurdish forces announced earlier this week, was also renamed, to be called “Arpet.”
Turkey, the European Union and the United States designate the PKK as a terrorist organization but a rift between Turkey and the U.S. has widened in the past weeks over the designation of the PYD and YPG.
While Turkey regards the two organizations as terrorist groups and says the YPG has obvious links to the PKK, the U.S. sees the PYD as an effective force in the fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which controls swathes of Syria and Iraq.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner called on Feb. 16 for Turkey and the YPG to ease rising tension in northern Syria by abandoning their current actions in the region.
“The YPG needs to stop its own actions on the ground that we believe raises tensions. But we would also urge Turkey to, as I said, cease firing artillery across the border,” Toner said. “We just think it escalates tensions in the region.”
Turkey shelled YPG targets in the Azez town of northern Syria on Feb. 13, for four consecutive days after the group seized the air base.