Turkey wants US to end support for Kurdish militants in Syria: Minister
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has called on the United States to end its support for the Kurdish militants, a main source of tension between the two NATO allies.
Akar renewed the call during a phone conversation with his American counterpart, Mark Esper, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
“During the call, Minister Akar stated that Turkey’s expectation from the US is to terminate entirely its support for the PKK/YPG [Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG)] terror organization,” the statement said.
Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the homegrown PKK militant group, which has been fighting for autonomy for decades. Like Ankara, the US has listed the PKK as a terrorist group, but views the YPG as an ally in its so-called fight against the Takfiri Daesh terror group.
Ankara, however, suspects that the US and its allies have been helping the Kurdish militants based in east of the Euphrates river inside Syria to establish a permanent foothold in the region.
Two sides have been in talks on the creation of a safe zone east of the Euphrates River to allay Turkey’s security concerns.
Akar said Turkey wants a 30-40 kilometers safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border that would be controlled by Turkey in coordination with the US.
He stressed that Turkey is “the only appropriate, ready and capable force” in the region to control the zone.
Ankara also wants the area to be cleared of the YPG, and weapons to be collected and all tunnels and shelters of the militants be destroyed, he added.
The Turkish minister noted that Ankara would establish the safe zone unilaterally, if the two sides failed to reach an agreement on the issue.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last week warned in an interview with broadcaster TGRT Haber that if the safe zone is not established in the northern parts of Syria, Turkey will launch an offensive in the Arab country.
Damascus categorically rejects any deal between Turkey and the US on a buffer zone in northern Syria, describing it as a violation of its sovereignty.