President Tayyip Erdogan told US President Donald Trump during his visit to Washington this week that Turkey would act “without asking anyone” if it faced any sort of attack from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Turkish media reported earlier today.
Trump’s approval, before the visit, of plans to arm the YPG as it advances towards Daesh’s Raqqa stronghold had overshadowed talks between the NATO allies, but Erdogan did not directly criticise the plan at the White House.
Later, speaking to reporters at the Turkish embassy, Erdogan underlined Turkey’s concerns about the YPG, which Ankara regards as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group fighting a decades-old insurgency in southeast Turkey.
Also discussing the PYD, which is the political arm of the YPG, Turkey’s Sabah newspaper cited the Turkish president as saying:
We clearly told them [the US] this: if there is any sort of attack from the YPG and PYD against Turkey, we will implement the rules of engagement without asking anyone.
Erdogan said that the United States had made its decision on the subject of the Raqqa operation and that Turkey could not participate, given the YPG involvement.
“We told them…we do not regard your cooperation with a terrorist group in Raqqa as healthy,” Erdogan was cited as saying, but he said he expected a role for Turkey in Syria.
“I believe they will knock on our door on the subject of Syria,” he said.
The United States sees the YPG as distinct from the PKK and as a valuable partner in the fight against Daesh, despite extensive evidence that shows that the PYD and YPG are both Syrian offshoots of the PKK. Turkey, the United States and the European Union all consider the PKK a terrorist organisation, which further fuels Turkish resentment towards its allies.