United States has 'never given heavy arms' to YPG Syrian Kurdish militia: Tillerson

New US-Turkey tensions overshadow anti-IS unity meeting

New US-Turkey tensions overshadow anti-IS unity meeting

In January, the self-administration in the Kurdish-held enclave in northern Syria had urged Damascus to dispatch its own forces to "protect its borders with Turkey from attacks of the Turkish occupier".

On Jan. 20, the Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Free Syrian Army, launched the Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, Syria.

Analysts said the level of tension was similar to 2003 when Turkey refused to let United States troops operate from its territory for the Iraq war, or even the aftermath of Ankara's invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

In addition to Syria, those included Ankara's complaints against a US -based Turkish cleric whom Erdogan accuses of fomenting a failed 2016 coup, USA concerns about the state of Turkey's democracy and opposition to Turkey's planned purchase of a Russian air defence system.

"We are not going to act alone any longer, not USA doing one thing, Turkey doing another", Tillerson said after the talks.

Earlier this week, Turkey demanded the U.S. expel the YPG from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition, which has been fighting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria with support from the US.

"We demanded this relationship be ended, I mean we want them to end all the support given to the Syrian arm of PKK, the YPG", Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli told reporters in a briefing in Brussels on Thursday, a day after meeting US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting.

Erdogan, in a speech by his party's parliamentary group on Tuesday, had responded to a USA general in Syria who had threatened to retaliate in case they were attacked by Turkey, with Erdogan saying he would receive an "Ottoman slap in the face".

Ankara views the YPG as a terror organization linked to the homegrown militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been fighting for autonomy on Turkish soil over the past decades.

Tillerson's visit came as anti-U.S. rhetoric from Turkish officials, including Erdogan and Cavusoglu, had spiked in recent days, with the president earlier this week suggesting that the Americans might be deserving of an "Ottoman slap", a reference to the Ottoman Empire's one-time might.

And he further upped the ante by warning USA troops to leave Manbij, a YPG-held town east of Afrin, raising fears of a clash between the allies.

"Our relations were at a critical turning point", Cavusoglu said, adding that the two sides are going to either correct this or "it was going to take a turn for the worse".

The US has "never given heavy arms" to the YPG and, therefore, there is "nothing to take back", Tillerson said.

Tillerson said that Turkey and the United States had to solve the tensions surrounding Manbij as a "priority".

While Tillerson has taken a conciliatory tone saying this week the U.S. was "keenly aware of the legitimate security concerns of Turkey", officials in Ankara have been more blunt.

Cavasoglu said other working groups would tackle the question of the YPG and of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and who Erdogan's government accuses of plotting a coup.

Recommended News

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.