MESOP : U.S. State Department Mark Toner plays it down – U.S. says it will ‘continue’ to support Syrian Kurdish YPG forces

28 May 2016 – WASHINGTON,— The United States sought to play down a diplomatic rift with Turkey on Friday after US commandos were caught on camera wearing Kurdish rebel badges.

Ankara reacted with fury after published pictures of US special forces working with the Kurdish PYG forces in Syrian Kurdistan [northern Syria] and wearing their insignia.Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared the US alliance with the group “unacceptable” but the State Department denied that relations are in crisis.

“We understand Turkey’s concerns, let me make that clear, and we continue to discuss this as well as other concerns Turkey has,” spokesman Mark Toner said. Toner said that Washington does not regard the YPG, which operates in Syrian Kurdistan, as part of the PKK, the Turkish-based Kurdish separatist movement. “With respect to Turkey’s comments about these photos we’ve been very clear… about our belief that the YPG is not connected to the PKK,” Toner said. “On the contrary, we believe the YPG as well as other forces in northern Syria are effectively taking the fight to ISIL,” he added.“And we’re going to continue to support them with our assist and support operation.”Toner thanked Turkey for supporting the coalition against the Islamic State group, which US officials variously refer to as ISIL, ISIS or Daesh.“Turkey’s been an active member of the anti-Daesh coalition, continues to be an active member. We’re grateful for Turkey’s support,” he said.“The goal here is to destroy and degrade Daesh and to remove them from the battlefield,” he said.

“Now, are there disagreements between members of the coalition as to how we proceed and with who we’re cooperating on the ground?” he said. “I’m not going to say that there aren’t, and obviously Turkey’s made very clear its feelings about the YPG.”