Turkey’s top diplomat has decried the US order to arm a Syrian Kurdish militia, saying each weapon they hold is a direct threat to Turkey. President Erdogan will travel to Washington next week to take up the issue.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Wednesday that arming the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Syrian Kurdish militia was no different to arming the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) group fighting in Turkey.
Cavusoglu’s remarks came as the US signed off on an order to arm YPG fighters in the fight to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa, the last remaining stronghold of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) jihadist group. Turkey, however, classifies the YPG as a terrorist group.
“Both the PKK and the YPG are terrorist organizations and they are no different, apart from their names,” Cavusoglu told reporters during a visit to Montenegro. “Every weapon seized by them is a threat to Turkey.”
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Turkey’s top diplomat added that the US was well aware of Ankara’s stance and that the issue would be discussed when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets his US counterpart Donald Trump during a visit to Washington next week.
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Earlier on Wednesday, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli was quoted by Turkish media of saying that the US’ order was “unacceptable” and that he hoped Washington would reverse its decision.
US: Kurdish assistance necessary in fight against IS
However, in announcing the order, the US appeared to double down on its position that Kurds provide crucial help in wiping out IS and liberating Raqqa.
“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner, Turkey,” Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement on Tuesday. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”
The Pentagon stressed that assisting the YPG was “necessary to ensure a clear victory” against IS in Raqqa.
The US and western powers have been backing a Syrian alliance of militias, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), fighting IS. Among its groups is the Kurdish YPG.
YPG welcomes arms
The YPG militia hailed the US’ decision to provide it with arms, calling the decision “historic” and a “sign of confidence” in the group.
The move, coupled with the US’ commitment to its umbrella coalition with the SDF, would expand its operations against IS, the YPG said in a statement. The decision was a refutation of “distortions” likening the YPG to a terrorist group, it added.