Tuvan Gumrukcu, Dahlia Nehme – REUTERS- 26 Jan 2018 – ANKARA/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Turkey urged the United States on Thursday to halt its support for Kurdish YPG fighters or risk confronting Turkish forces on the ground in Syria, some of Ankara’s strongest comments yet about a potential clash with its NATO ally.
The remarks, from the spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan’s government, underscored the growing bilateral tensions, six days after Turkey launched its air and ground operation, “Olive Branch”, in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region.
In Washington, the Pentagon said that it carefully tracked weapons provided to the YPG and would continue discussions with Turkey. “We carefully track those weapons that are provided to them, we ensure that they, to the maximum extent possible, don’t fall into the wrong hands and we’re continuing discussions with the Turks on this issue,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, joint staff director, told reporters.
McKenzie said Turkey’s operation into Afrin was not helpful and was taking focus away from fighting Islamic State. Turkey’s targeting of the YPG, which it views as a security threat, has opened a new front in Syria’s multi-sided civil war. The Syrian Kurdish group is a main part of a U.S.-backed rebel alliance that has inflicted recent defeats on Islamic State militants. Any push by Turkish forces towards Manbij, part of a Kurdish-held territory some 100 km (60 miles) east of Afrin, could threaten U.S. efforts in northeast Syria and bring them into direct confrontation with U.S. troops deployed there. “Those who support the terrorist organization will become a target in this battle,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said. “The United States needs to review its solders and elements giving support to terrorists on the ground in such a way as to avoid a confrontation with Turkey,” Bozdag, who also acts as the government’s spokesman, told broadcaster A Haber.