News / Middle East

    US-Turkish Tensions Escalate Over Syrian Kurds

    FILE - Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters take up positions inside a damaged building in al-Vilat al-Homor neighborhood in Hasaka city, Syria.
    FILE - Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters take up positions inside a damaged building in al-Vilat al-Homor neighborhood in Hasaka city, Syria.
    Dorian Jones

    Turkey shelled Kurdish forces advancing in northern Syrian for a fourth day Tuesday, despite calls from Western allies to stop. Damascus has also condemned Turkey's military actions in Aleppo, calling the shelling a violation of Syria's sovereignty and asking the U.N. Security Council to step in.

    Ankara, however, appears determined to continue targeting Kurdish YPG militia.

    Russia is set to raise the issue Tuesday with the U.N. — a move dismissed by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

    "What an attitude!" he said, adding that Russia is bombing hospitals and schools, and then turning around and referring Turkey to the Security Council to address border security.

    FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet DavutogluFILE - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
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    FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
    FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

    The Turkish prime minister also repeated his threat against the Syrian Kurds.

    "We will do what is necessary if they continue to advance," he warned.

    The YPG militia is moving ahead with its westward advance to link up with a Syrian Kurdish canton.

    A senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the shelling is in retaliation for attacks by the Syrian Kurdish group. However, the official could not give any photographic evidence of the attacks, or say when and where they occurred.

    Ankara accuses the YPG of being an extension of the PKK rebel group that is operating inside Turkey.  Kadri Gursel, a political columnist for the Al-Monitor website, said Ankara is becoming isolated from its allies over their support of the YPG and its political wing, the PYD.

    "The West, in general, sees the PYD as a reliable ally in the fight on ISIS,” Gursel said, using an acronym for Islamic State. “Ankara seeing the PYD as more of a threat than ISIS is a very, very problematic outlook; this is a totally upside-down approach."

    ‘Them or us’

    Ankara's relations with Washington, which has conducted airstrikes in support of the YPG, are becoming particularly strained. Turkish officials say U.S. weapons given to the Syrian Kurds have ended up in PKK hands. Washington denies arming the YPG.

    Late last month, the U.S. State Department official coordinating the global effort against Islamic State, Brett McGurk, traveled to the Syrian town of Kobani, where he met with PYD and YPG members.  Following that meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Washington must choose between Turkey and the PYD as its partner.

    Still, the dispute over the Syrian Kurds is unlikely to lead to a complete rupture between the U.S. and Turkey, said international relations expert Soli Ozel.

    "The Turkish challenge — it's either them or us — and the American response — it's both of you and we will continue with the PYD — under normal circumstances would create a severe diplomatic crisis,” Ozel said. “But Turkey does need the United States, and [on] the issue of the PYD, it's quite evident the U.S. will not change its ways and Turkey will not change its ways."

    Pro-government media in Turkey are calling for U.S. forces to be barred from using Turkish air bases for its airstrikes against Islamic State. So far, however, Ankara has resisted calls for any sanctions against Washington.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Re
    February 17, 2016 3:51 PM
    What can you expect from a developing country as Turkey?一A third-world government trying to dominate the ME. What a big mistake to have let Turkey into NATO. Because of this, I've become a staunch admirer of President Putin. Can you trust Obama or Hillary..?

    by: Moses608 from: Kenya
    February 17, 2016 5:57 AM
    In this one particular case you can't trust Turkey.Turkey should not be at war with that KURDS at this crucial moment.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    February 17, 2016 4:48 AM
    Turkey is only exploiting NATO and the US to serve its dirty goals. It is an irresponsible member of NATO. Turkey may drag NATO to destruction one day with its mad ambition.

    by: Anonymous
    February 17, 2016 1:07 AM
    Turkey = ISIS

    Turkey is supporting ISIS and AQ in Syria and Iraq.

    Of course, Turkey is becoming an increasingly unreliable partner for its allies, and it's getting worse day by day.

    Turkey is not a US ally anymore, Turkey is providing ideological and monetary help to ISIS and AQ.

    Even the notation of "same interests but not allies" is ridiculous about Turkey now. Not only Turkey is not a US ally, Turkey's interests are not the same as the US anymore.

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