The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which controls large swaths of northern Syria, must refrain from supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, warned U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Blinken acknowledged Turkey’s concerns about the U.S.-backed PYD. Ankara has long considered the PYD a mere extension of the PKK, which the United Sates and some of its allies have officially designated a terrorist organization.
“Turkey is one of our closest allies. It’s collaboration in dealing with the crisis in Syria is absolutely vital and we are indeed working very closely together with it,” Blinken said at a United Nations news conference on Wednesday, various Turkish news outlets report.
The deputy secretary of state stressed:
It is also not a secret that Turkey has expressed concerns about some of the Syrian Kurdish groups in northern Syria, including the PYD. We have made it very clear to the PYD that any action it takes to either support the PKK or to engage the other opposition groups are profoundly problematic and we look to the PYD to act responsibly and focus its efforts on the fight against Daesh [Islamic State].
His comments came as Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan criticized the Obama administration for a flawed Syria strategy, saying it is predicated on depending upon a “small terror organization.”
“YPG [People’s Protection Units] and PYD is part of the PKK. A change in the name does not change its nature. If you call an apple a pear, it is still an apple,” reiterated Akdogan in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP).
YPG forces, which the U.S. considers a useful ally on the ground in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), are the armed wing of the PYD.
In February, Turkey summoned the American ambassador in Ankara a day after the U.S. Department of State indicated that Washington does not recognize the YPG as terrorists.
Turkey, America’s NATO ally, has long stressed that the PYD and its armed wing are affiliated with the U.S.-designated terrorist group PKK.
Nevertheless, John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, told reporters in February, “We don’t, as you know, recognize the PYD as a terrorist organization. We recognize that the Turks do, and I understand that. Even the best of friends aren’t going to agree on everything.”
“We have said that these Kurdish fighters are successful against Daesh,” the spokesman also said, referring to ISIS by its Arabic acronym. “These groups [Kurdish fighters] that we are providing support for, and we’re going to continue to provide that support because they are going after the group that we believe needs to be eradicated in Iraq and Syria.”
Kirby acknowledged that the Obama administration is aware of Turkey’s concerns over the PYD, but he added that the group’s military wing is one of the most successful armed entities fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria.
The YPG forces are “an important partner in this fight” against ISIS, declared Kirby, later reiterating that Turkey is America’s NATO ally and a “key” member of the U.S.-led coalition against the jihadist group.