Turkey wants concrete steps from US against terrorism in Syria

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Prime Minister Yildirim called on the US to make a decision on its support for the YPG in Syria hours after Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned ties with Washington were at a “critical point”.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Monday questioned the seriousness of the US in the fight against terrorism in Syria and urged it again to drop its material support for terrorist groups.

Speaking at a news conference alongside his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev in the capital, Ankara, Yildirim said, “The US, which we think of as our NATO ally and years-long strategic partner, should pull itself together and come to a proper decision.”

“The US should see that the fight against a terror group via another one does not comply with a state’s seriousness. It would be nice if the US could see that, if it doesn’t, then we will continue to do what is necessary.”

Yildirim’s statement followed comments made by US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who while discussing the fight by US coalition forces against Daesh in Syria, conceded that some Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militants were leaving the battle against Daesh to fight against Turkish forces in Afrin.

Mattis, speaking to journalists while on a flight to Rome, said the fight against Daesh had become more difficult as they were being cornered.

“And, plus, you know, you’ve got the – the distraction of what’s going on up in Afrin right now, which is drawing off some of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which have got about 50 percent – that’s probably not a firm percentage, could be less, could be more – that are Kurds, and so they see their fellow Kurds in Afrin under attack, so that is causing at least their attention to shift up there.”

“In some cases, some of the – the troops have drawn off to there. Not a significant number right now, but you know, between the concentration of ISIS [Daesh] and the distraction of Afrin, then you’ve got tough fighting down along the line on contact there, in what we call the Middle Euphrates River Valley.”

The US has long supported the SDF, which is primarily made up of YPG/PKK militants in its fight against Daesh, despite strong objections from Ankara, which has documented that the YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK.

TRT World’s Hasan Abdullah has the latest from Ankara.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by the US, EU and Turkey.

On January 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also criticised the US for supporting the YPG.

“Our expectations from the United States are clear. We don’t want assurances anymore; we want concrete steps. Either we restore our relations, or they will completely break down,” he said on Monday.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians.

A total of 1,369 PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh terrorists have been “neutralised” since the launch of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin region, the military said on Monday.

The PKK is a vast network with branches, affiliates, financiers, politicians, activists, lawyers, youth clubs, publications and militants around the world.
The PKK is a vast network with branches, affiliates, financiers, politicians, activists, lawyers, youth clubs, publications and militants around the world. (TRTWorld)

Turkish authorities often use the word ‘neutralise’ in their statements to imply that the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defence rights under the UN charter and respect for Syria’s territorial integrity, it said.

The military also said that “utmost care” is being used to avoid harming civilians.

Afrin has been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.

Cavusoglu: Ties with US at ‘very critical point’

Yildirim’s comments were preceded earlier in the day by those of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who also cautioned Washington, saying, “ties with the US are at the very critical point. We will either fix these relations or they will break completely.”

He added that he would discuss the problems in ties with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his “important” visit to Turkey this week as part of a regional tour.

Turkey’s expectations from the US are “loud and clear,” Cavusoglu added.

“We don’t want any more promises, we want concrete steps. In order to discuss certain subjects with the US … the missing trust needs to be restored,” he said on the sidelines of the Turkish-African Union meeting in Istanbul.

“The reason for that missing trust is the US.”

Mentioning the YPG/PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO), the group behind a defeated 2016 coup in Turkey, Cavusoglu asked:

“We’ve seen serious mistakes and wrongs from our ally, the US, on FETO, the YPG and other subjects. The US didn’t keep the promises it made. How trustworthy can a country that fails to keep its promises be?”

Source: AA