ISTANBUL: Turkey called Thursday for the removal of the US diplomat coordinating the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, accusing him of backing Syrian Kurdish militias, reports AFP.
Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which Turkey considers a front for banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) separatists.
“Brett McGurk is definitely giving support to PKK and YPG. It would be useful if this person was replaced,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.
Last year, McGurk visited YPG members who controlled the Syrian town of Kobane and was awarded a plaque, which drew Turkey’s wrath.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily told Washington at the time to choose between Ankara and “terrorists”.
Erdogan met Trump at the White House on Tuesday, with the two leaders pledging to improve ties between the NATO allies—even as Erdogan gave a stern warning about Washington’s arming of Kurdish militia in Syria.
“It is absolutely unacceptable to take the YPG-PYD into consideration as partners in the region, and it’s going against a global agreement we reached,” Erdogan said in Washington, referring to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, whose armed wing is the YPG.
The United States sees the YPG as the most effective force on the ground in the fight against Islamic State militants.
Turkey is keen to join a future battle to recapture the de facto IS capital of Raqa in Syria, but only if Kurdish militia forces do not participate.
US officials told Ankara that the YPG would not constitute a threat for Turkey and that arms supplied by Washington would be used in Raqa and in the south, not against Turkey, Cavusoglu said.
Speaking to reporters at the Turkish embassy in Washington, Erdogan said he told Trump that if there were a YPG attack, Ankara would act unilaterally.