Turkey, Politics, Americas

Minister says arming PKK/PYD will threaten Turkey

US decision to equip Syrian group for Raqqah assault poses threat, foreign minister says

Minister says arming PKK/PYD will threaten Turkey

PODGORICA, Montenegro

Weapons held by the Syrian PKK/PYD are a “threat to Turkey”, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday, following the U.S. decision to arm the group.

In the first reaction by a senior Turkish politician to President Donald Trump’s decision, Cavusoglu said: “The YPG and the PKK are both terrorist organizations, there is no difference, only the name is different and every weapon they obtain is a threat to Turkey.”

On Tuesday, U.S. officials said Trump had approved the arming of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ahead of an attempt to drive Daesh from Raqqah, the last Syrian city held by the terror group.

The SDF is spearheaded by the PKK/PYD, as Ankara often refers to the Kurdish YPG. Turkey views the Syrian group as a terror organization affiliated to the PKK, which has fought a 33-year war against Turkey and is also listed as a terror organization by the U.S. and EU.

However, the U.S. has used the PKK/PYD as its ally on the ground in combatting Daesh in Syria. Turkey has repeatedly called on the U.S. to end its ties to the PKK/PYD and offered to help take Raqqah.

“They know our stance on arming terrorist groups,” Cavusoglu said after a news conference in Podgorica, Montenegro.

“We also shared our suggestions with them, especially on a possible operation to Raqqah. The YPG forces need to be separated from the SDF forces. It is good for Arabs to be in Raqqah.”

Although the bulk of the SDF is made up of PKK/PYD militants, there are also armed Arab and Turkmen groups within the alliance.

Turkey has repeatedly complained that the PKK/PYD has driven Arab populations out of territories taken from Daesh.

U.S. Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said Tuesday that “Kurdish elements” of the SDF would be armed to “ensure a clear victory” over Daesh in Raqqah.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to visit Washington next week for talks with Trump.

The Pentagon said the U.S. was “keenly aware” of Turkey's security concerns over the PKK/PYD.

Reporting by Kayhan Gul;Writing by Satuk Bugra Kutlugun

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