Erdogan tells US to choose between Turkey or Kurds

Erdogan tells US to choose between Turkey or Kurds
Turkey's president has given the US an ultimatum about whether it will back Turkish and Kurdish forces as Kurdish fighters in northern Syria eat into opposition territories.
3 min read
08 February, 2016
Erdogan's comments come as reports say Kurdish forces in Syria are backed by Russia [Getty]
Turkey's president lashed out at the United States a week after President Barack Obama's envoy visited a northern Syrian town that is under the control of Syrian Kurdish forces, which Ankara deems to be a "terrorist" group.

In comments published Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Washington should choose between Turkey and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, as its partner.

That came after envoy Brett McGurk's visit to Kobani, where the PYD's military wing, aided by US-led airstrikes, drove back Islamic State militants a year ago.

US-based Kurdish affairs analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said McGurk's visit appeared intended to assuage the Kurds after their exclusion from the Geneva talks.

"The goal is to ease Kurdish anger and give them reassurances that they are not being ignored and that they have a part in this process," he said.

Turkey considers the PYD a terrorist group because of its affiliation with Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

"How can we trust you? Is it me that is your partner or is it the terrorists in Kobani?" Erdogan said.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman reiterated the longstanding US policy that considers the PKK "to be a terrorist organisation".

"We continue to call on the PKK to immediately cease its campaign of violence. A resumed political process offers the best hope for greater civil rights, security, and prosperity for all the citizens of Turkey," said Noel Clay of the State Department.

Kurdish attacks

The news comes as opposition sources have said that both Syrian army and Kurdish PYD are attacking opposition strongholds near the Turkish border to control the area, as regime forces continue a devestating offensive on Aleppo. 

Turkey has announced the 60 mile long Azaz-Jarabulus line as the "red line" for Ankara and warned they would target any armed faction who tried to cross it.
Kurdish forces are reportedly backed by Russian air cover as well as recieving weaponary.

On Saturday, it was announced that separatist Syrian-Kurds will open "representation offices" in Moscow next month. 

Turkey and Russia have been backing opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, with the Russian military intervening on the regime's side in September, while Turkey has been backing opposition forces. 

"The Russians claim that we are preparing a military action in Syria, I would like to ask the Russians, what are you doing in Syria?" Erdogan rhetorically asked Russia in a press conference on Sunday

"You are an occupation force and you are practicing a state terrorism. You are cooperating with someone who killed over 400,000 people and you continue the killing of civilians." 

The US meanwhile has been criticised for inaction as tens of thousands of Syrian civilians have been displaced from Aleppo, Syria's second largest city. 

Agencies contributed to this report.