News / Middle East

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Nov. 26, 2015.  Ankara summoned the American ambassador, John Bass, on Feb. 9, 2016, to protest remarks by a State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization.
    FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Nov. 26, 2015. Ankara summoned the American ambassador, John Bass, on Feb. 9, 2016, to protest remarks by a State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization.
    Dorian Jones

    The rift between Turkey and the U.S. widened late Tuesday when Ankara summoned the American ambassador, John Bass, to protest remarks by a State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization.

    A Turkish official with the Foreign Ministry told VOA that Ankara made clear its “unease.”

    Earlier Tuesday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, echoed President Erdogan’s remarks that the U.S. must decide who it is partnering with in Syria: the PYD or Turkey.

    Çavuşoğlu said Western countries needed to make up their minds. “Are we [one of] the partner countries in Syria in the fight against Daesh or are terror organizations?” said Çavuşoğlu in Budapest during a news conference using a derogatory term for the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

    The tensions between the two countries were highlighted when the head of the anti-IS coalition, Bret McGurk, visited the Syrian town of Kobani late last month, where he met with members of the PYD and its militia, the YPG.

    U.S. forces have been supporting the YPG in its battle against Islamic State, but Ankara accuses the Syrian Kurdish group of being a terrorist organization connected to the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, which Turkish forces are fighting in southeastern Turkey.

    U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute is playing down the Turkish president’s ultimatum, while underlining the importance of the Syrian Kurdish groups.

    "These are not new concerns with regard to U.S. contact and U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish groups," he said. "And of course the visit that you are referring took place into the town of Kobani, which of course was largely freed from ISIL control because of the effective fighting of those Syrian Kurdish groups."
     
    With Ankara providing airbases for U.S.-led operations against Islamic State, Washington is having to perform a delicate balancing act over its support for Syrian Kurdish groups.

    Analysts say Moscow is courting the Syrian Kurds' allegiance.  Russia strongly backed the PYD’s presence, which Ankara successfully blocked, in last month’s Geneva peace talks.

    Moscow has also reportedly supplied arms to the Syrian Kurds.

    U.S. Presidential Envoy to Anti-Islamic State Coalition Brett McGurk arrived in Kobani over the weekend, officials said Feb. 1, 2016. (Facebook Photo Courtesy of Kurdish official Aldar Khalil)
    U.S. Presidential Envoy to Anti-Islamic State Coalition Brett McGurk arrived in Kobani over the weekend, officials said Feb. 1, 2016. (Facebook Photo Courtesy of Kurdish official Aldar Khalil)

    Political columnist Kadri Gursel for Al Monitor website said envoy McGurk's visit to Kobani was strategically important for the United States.

    "It is a very important gesture; it's a provocative gesture, but a legitimate one.  It was a move destined to confirm the United States' position vis-a-vis Syria Kurds, and also a message to Ankara," he said. "And the United States is not wishing to see PYD Kurds being pushed to the Russians, this is what Ankara is doing, exactly."

    With Turkish political leaders designating the PYD and PKK as greater threats than Islamic State, analysts say relations between Ankara and Washington, are becoming increasingly strained.  

    Gursel said those tensions have led to a redefining of the relationship.

    "Washington sees Ankara as a friend, but in the eyes of Washington, Ankara is an untrustworthy, unreliable, unpredictable friend," he said. "Believe me, Ankara and Washington are not on the same page, in terms of the Middle East."

    Washington, for its part, continues to call Turkey a key partner in its fight against Islamic State. But observers say with Washington’s priority being the defeat of IS, and with Syrian Kurds one of the most effective anti-IS forces in Syria, Turkish-U.S. relations appear destined to remain strained for some time to come. 

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    Comments
         
    by: md jalil from: Dublin
    February 13, 2016 1:00 AM
    American shud not meddle in the middle east. Proof are abundance. They will destroyed those countries they invade.Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan Sudan to name but few. Lesson learned. Or still do we have no sympathy with those small coutries being bullied by the US and want more blood in their hands? American was the same countries that installed Bashar to helm Syria eventhough Syrian Alawite were the minority less than 10%. Now that the peole of Syria rise up to this regime, they tied Russan and Iran as the culprit. Too obvious their strategy is to bannish the people of Syria and let these Alawite rule. Because their main interest is the Safety of Israelite. Any government by the Sunni will have repercussion on the safety of Israel. Now U see why they have hidden agendas even for turkey because it is becoming stronger by the day. Their hegemony in the middle east is under threat.

    by: King Niko
    February 12, 2016 7:57 AM
    Erdogan has gone too far presenting ultimatum to America. He himself should be tried for extremism and ties with vile terrorist organization of Jabhat al-Nusra

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 10, 2016 2:15 PM
    I do not see why a future Kurdistan carved out of Northern Syria, Iraq, and Iran would pose a problem for Turkey. Turkey's borders would remain intact and the Kurds living in Turkey would have a good reason to leave for their new country. It's a win-win arrangement except for broken countries like Syria and Iraq, and one that badly needs to be broken, that is Iran.

    Kurds living in Russia would also have an incentive to leave. As Syria's and Iraq's governments can no longer control all of their territory, they'd be no worse off than they are now. Iran will be lucky if the US or Israel doesn't attack it eventually. It continues to be perceived as a dire threat to many in the US and the Mideast no matter what this so called deal says.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    February 10, 2016 4:34 PM
    Nice try.

    If a Kurdistan is to be carved out, the most part of it will be carved out of Turkey.

    Half of Turkey could become Kurdistan.

    by: littlesquirrrel
    February 10, 2016 7:58 AM
    This is why the airbase in Syria is important. It is a backup if the airbase in Turkey is closed unexpectedly. If Turkey turns its back and closes the airfield in Turkey the US won't have a working airstrip in the area. The YPG is important to the US by sustaining and securing an airfield inside Syria

    by: Shazada Zahid Malik-Loan from: london
    February 10, 2016 4:53 AM
    Turks have now realised that Occupied Zionist/Crusader controlled America and Christian controlled Russia are one - they are playing different style of poker/chess game. They both want Turkey weakened and then dismembered - this of course is not going to happen. The occupied America is doing what the Zionist/Crusader state group Entity wants - a revenge against turkey but through its proxy - Russia and Occupied America.

    by: Anonymous
    February 10, 2016 1:07 AM
    Turkey is supporting ISIS and AQ in Syria and Iraq.

    ISIS is actually an extension of who Turks really are.

    There's no moderate rebel or opposition.

    FSA, Nusra Front, Turkmen Brigades and any other b.s. names are used to avoid using AQ.

    Turks are not friends with the west, Turks hate the west and will do everything to destroy the west.

    by: Anonymous
    February 10, 2016 1:07 AM
    The US should just build a few airbases in Kurdistan.

    This way Turkey can't blackmail the US anymore for its airbases.

    By supporting ISIS Turks have become utterly useless and untrustworthy.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    February 10, 2016 1:56 PM
    Erdogan will just start blackmailing the US over the nukes at Incirlik.

    by: BirdCV
    February 09, 2016 10:17 PM
    Washington's obession with ISIS is exactly why it is losing its status to Russia. It is not an understatement to say that Russia now calls the shots and US is embarrassingly weak in front of Putin's decisiveness. I believe Obama sees ISIS in his nightmares every night, only such thing could possibly delude him into misreading the events in Syria so badly as he has been.

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