By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet and Kubra Chohan
Turkey’s president said Sunday that friends should not deceive each other, referring to recent remarks by a US general over the terrorist PKK/PYD “rebranding” itself as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
"We know very well who’s who. Both are the same,” Erdogan told a press conference at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport before starting a two-day Gulf tour in Saudi Arabia.
“What really matters isn’t changing the name plate, but what is inside," he added.
Saying that Turkey gives no credit to the terrorist PKK/PYD changing its name to the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said, "Friends don’t deceive each other," referring to the U.S.
Last Friday, speaking at a security forum in Colorado, Gen. Raymond Thomas, the head of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, said that the PKK/PYD had rebranded itself the Syrian Democratic Forces to give it a voice in Syria talks and to assuage Ankara.
The U.S. has supported the PKK/PYD along with several other Arab militia groups under the umbrella of the SDF, long vexing Ankara.
The U.S. views the SDF as a "reliable partner" in its fight against Daesh and continues to provide it with arms and equipment against strong objections by Turkey, which views the PKK/PYD as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror group.
The PKK has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years that has led to the deaths of more than 40,000 people. It is a designated terror group in Turkey, the U.S., and EU.
Turkey and Germany
Also commenting on recent tensions in Turkish-German ties, Erdogan said, "Nobody has right to interfere in Turkey’s domestic affairs."
After German national Peter Steudtner was remanded in custody by a Turkish court this week, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel denounced his detention, and also signaled a shift in Turkish-German ties, saying they “can’t go on like before”.
Steudtner was part of a group of suspects allegedly planning provocative events meant to fuel unrest across Turkey similar to the 2013 Gezi Park protests.
Erdogan said Turkey will do anything possible to counter those who are involved in provocative acts in Turkey and even try to continue these via their diplomatic services.
On Gabriel’s remarks on Turkish-German ties, Erdogan said, “We are together in NATO. We’re a negotiator state in the EU process. We have been partners for a long time. No step casting a shadow over this partnership should be taken”.
Erdogan also complained that many Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) members are moving about freely in Germany.
"Their names were already given” to Germany, Erdogan said, but they have not been extradited, despite the extradition agreement between the two countries.
“If you give shelter to terrorists escaping from Turkey to Germany, give them the opportunity to promote terror, welcome them when they escape Turkey even though they were tried in Turkish courts and found guilty, reward them by having them speak in various public meetings, host them at the presidential office, I’m sorry but our stance toward you will not be the same,” he said.
FETO, which organized the defeated coup bid in Turkey last year that martyred 250 people, has a large network in Germany, which is home to more than 3 million Turkish immigrants.
Since the defeated coup attempt, nearly 4,000 FETO suspects have come to Germany from Turkey and other countries, according to local media reports.
Apart from FETO, the terrorist PKK also has a large network in Germany and carries out significant propaganda, recruitment, and funding activities.
While Turkish leaders have slammed German authorities for not showing solidarity in the fight against terrorism, German politicians have criticized Turkey over human rights and press freedom issues.
In addition, Erdogan spoke against the latest restrictions around Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Muslims’ third-holiest site.
"Al-Aqsa not only belongs to Palestinians, it is the honor and sacred place of 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide," he said.
“As Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit Term President, I call for Israel once more to act in line with law and basic human values. I would like to underline once again that they should avoid steps that escalate tensions,” he added.
Erdogan stressed, “Turkey will continue to work to establish peace in the area and support our Palestinian brothers’ fight for freedom and justice.”
“We do not find our brothers experiencing trouble and distress right by any means, and we are deeply saddened by the latest incidents. Today, as Muslims, we are in a period where we should be closely united and close ranks more than ever. The trouble, the suffering in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Palestine are obvious. Unfortunately, new problems are being added to existing ones every day. What happened at Al-Aqsa in the sight of the world is an example of this,” he said.
“The Islamic world cannot be expected to remain unresponsive to restrictions on Al-Aqsa and the tarnishing of Muslims’ honor. Thus, Turkey has shown its reaction eloquently”, he added.
Recent unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank followed protests over installation of new metal detectors at the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which Israel claims is a standard security measure in response to a shootout that left two Israeli police officers and three Palestinians dead.
Separately, three Israeli settlers were stabbed to death in the West Bank late Friday when a Palestinian allegedly entered their home. The alleged attacker was shot dead by a neighbor of the family.