Erdogan: US must choose between Turkey and Kurdish forces

Recep Tayyip Erdo?an [AMISOM/Flickr]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has denounced a senior US official’s visit to Kurdish-controlled northern Syria, underlining the “mistrust” the visit has created in Ankara over the nature of Turkey’s “partnership” with the U.S.

That came after President Barack Obama’s envoy, Brett McGurk, visited Kobane in northern Syria, where the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) military wing, aided by US-led airstrikes, drove back Islamic State militants a year ago.

Erdo?an reiterated Turkey’s stance on PYD and its military wing, the People’s Defense Units (YPG). Turkey considers the party and its affiliates in the same category as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“How can we trust (the Americans)? Am I your partner or are the terrorists in Kobane?” Erdo?an asked, while speaking with reporters en route from Dakar to Istanbul as he wrapped up a Latin America tour that covered Chile, Peru and Ecuador.

The US envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Brett McGurk, confirmed on 1 February that he visited Kurdish-controlled northern Syria the previous weekend. McGurk said his trip aimed to review the fight against the jihadist group that controls swathes of Syria and Iraq.

The PKK, which says it is fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds, took up arms in 1984. It is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

In December, Turkish security forces intensified operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which dug trenches and erected barricades inside towns and cities after the collapse of a ceasefire in July, reviving a 31-year conflict that has killed 40,000 people, mainly Kurds.

Neighbourhood Commissioner Johannes Hahn recently expressed concern over growing tensions in Turkey between the government and the Kurdish community, and strongly appealed for a return to the peace process.

>> Read: Hahn urges Turkey to return to the Kurdish Peace Process

The EU recognises Turkey’s legitimate right to defend itself against the PKK, but has emphasised that measures taken against the PKK must be proportionate

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