Turkey says problems with US relate to support for Syrian-Kurdish fighters

Turkey says problems with US relate to support for Syrian-Kurdish fighters
Turkey's defence minister says that problems with Washington revolve around US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria who are blacklisted in Turkey.
2 min read
08 June, 2021
The Turkish defense minister's comments came before Erdogan's planned visit with Biden next week. [Getty Images]

Turkey’s defense minister said Monday that differences between his country and Washington are due to US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria.

Hulusi Akar dismissed suggestions that the split relates to Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 missiles, which sparked anger in Washington.

He said that it instead relates to the US' alliance with Syrian-Kurdish militias, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which began with the military campaign against the Islamic State group.

"All other problems can be solved in some way or another, but this problem we were not able to solve," he said.

Akar’s statement came as Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to meet his US counterpart Joe Biden next week on the sidelines of the NATO summit this month in Brussels.

He indicated that the US supports the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria - the largest component of the SDF - with weapons and other equipment.

Ankara insists that the YPG and banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are the same groups.

"Washington is cooperating with these forces and insists largely that the Kurdish units are not the PKK," he said, adding that "facts" on the ground show otherwise.

"Turkey will not accept this, and we say, clearly, that the PKK and Kurdish units are one thing, and America must understand Turkey's determination in this matter... [it relates to] our sovereignty and independence and that Turkey is determined to eliminate this problem that has been ongoing for 40 years," he stressed.

Relations between Turkey and the US have been strained for years on a number of issues but deteriorated further when Joe Biden replaced Erdogan's ally Donald Trump as president in January.

The new US administration has criticised Turkey's human rights record and recognised the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire during World War I, a designation that Turkey strongly denies.

Erdogan said last week the US was at risk of "losing a precious friend" due to these issues.