ANKARA, Turkey--Turkey has documents that show the United States has provided weapons to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, one day after the US embassy in Ankara refuted what it called “misinformation" in the Turkish media about the country’s support to the YPG.
“The U.S. is providing arms to the YPG and PYD, period,” Cavusoglu told the Turkish A Haber, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, in reference to the Democratic Union Party, the YPG’s political wing.
“They also know very well that the U.S. is providing arms to the YPG especially for their fight against ISIL [ISIS] and we know it very well. We have documents in our hands and everyone in the world knows it.”
His comments come a day after the US embassy released a statement refuting claims in the Turkish media that the US has provided arms to the YPG or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed Kurdish group involved in decades-long conflict against the Turkish state both in Turkey and across the border in Iraq.
“The United States government has not provided weapons or explosives to the YPG or the PKK – period. We repeatedly have condemned PKK terrorist attacks and the group’s reprehensible violence in Turkey."
Cavusoglu said it is time for the US to admit that they made a mistake.
“[I]f they say ‘We have provided arms up to now and we understood that we made a mistake,’ that is OK. But the U.S. has provided arms to the YPG, period.”
He claimed that the YPG is putting pressure on the US-led coalition against ISIS in Syria to support linking the Kurdish cantons in the north and northwest of the country in return for their support in the Raqqa operation.
The military operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIS, ousting the extremist group from their de facto capital, was launched in early November by a coalition of forces fighting under the flag of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“The reason is the YPG is putting pressure on the U.S. because they want to bridge their terror cantons. The U.S. wants to use the YPG for its Raqqa offensive,” Cavusoglu said adding that the YPG wants Turkey to fail in its offensive to retake the northwestern town of al-Bab so that it can link the predominantly Kurdish cantons.
Turkey opposes the Syrian Kurds advancing westward from Kobane to link up with Afrin canton. Ankara does not want to see the YPG – the foremost armed group in the SDF – dominate the border region as Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the PKK.
Turkey has been supporting hundreds of Free Syrian Army fighters in northwestern Syria with tanks, artillery, airstrikes and a small number of ground troops since they launched the Euphrates Shield operation on August 24. The goal of the military operation is to clear the border area of all “terrorists,” Turkish officials have said, naming both ISIS and Kurdish forces.
John Bass, the US ambassador to Ankara, told Turkish NTV last Friday that his country has two goals in its support for the SDF. The first goal is to ensure the defeat of ISIS in Syria, especially along the Syrian-Turkish border, therefore eliminating the threat of the extremist group to Turkey. Secondly, this outcome should not come at the expense of creating other problems for Turkey, a NATO ally.
"[T]he other goal we have had is to approach this problem set in Syria and to ensure we conduct military operations in ways that do not create a long-term strategic problem for Turkey, our NATO ally," Bass said
"That is an important reason why we do not support, have never supported, connection of the so-called Kurdish cantons in Syria."