The United States, in an effort to repair ties with NATO ally Turkey, offered up to $12 million in rewards this week for information on three senior members of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) terrorist group, a prime target of the current Turkish administration.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer announced the rewards for the high-ranking PKK members when he met with high-level Turkish officials on Tuesday.
1/2 During first visit to Ankara, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer met with high-level Turkish government officials, business leaders and members of Parliament. Read his full statement here: https://t.co/MoYVCcBfak
— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) November 6, 2018
In a statement, he declared:
The United States values its counterterrorism cooperation with our NATO Ally Turkey. As part of my visit, I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program is targeting three senior members of the terrorist organization Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
The [State] Department has authorized rewards for information leading to the identification or location of the senior PKK members: Murat Karayilan (up to USD $5 million), Cemil Bayik (up to USD $4 million), and Duran Kalkan (up to USD $3 million).
Citing Turkey’s interior ministry, Reuters notes that the three PKK figures, described as leaders of the group, also appear on Ankara’s “most wanted terrorists” list.
Ankara considers the PKK to be an extension of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria who receive support from the U.S.-led coalition’s air campaign and American troops on the ground.
Turkey, the United Staes, and the European Union have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization.
The U.S. reward offer came on the same day that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted the United States for holding joint military patrols near the Turkish border in northern Syria with the YPG.
U.S. troops carried out the patrols after Turkey began to bomb YPG targets in their stronghold east of the Euphrates.
Despite Turkey’s concerns over the Syrian Kurds’ alleged ties to PKK terrorists, America considers the YPG to be the most capable force on the ground to take on the Islamic State (ISIS).
America’s support for the YPG has infuriated Turkey. The YPG controls large swathes of northern Syria, east of the Euphrates.
Turkey cautiously welcomed the reward offer, noting that the Trump administration should also adopt a tough stance against YPG.
“We expect the same stance, approach, and viewpoint against [Syrian Kurdish militia], which is no different than the PKK,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar declared, according to the Associated Press (AP).
“They [United States] say they hold the YPG separate from the PKK, but they can’t fool anyone with this,” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for the Turkish president, told broadcaster Haberturk, according to Reuters.
“It is a very delayed move. If they follow through, we will see it positively, but if, in the big picture, this is to veil engagement with the YPG, it will come out in a few days,” he added.
In late October, Erdogan issued a “final warning” the U.S.-allied YPG, vowing to extend Turkey’s campaign in Syria to territory in the Syrian Kurdish stronghold east of the Euphrates.
This year, Ankara launched an offensive to push the YPG out of Afrin, located west of the Euphrates.
Reuters points out:
Relations between Turkey and the United States have begun to thaw since the release from jail last month of American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson.
Last week, the two countries mutually lifted sanctions on government officials, imposed in August over the Brunson case. Washington announced this week that Turkey would receive a temporary waiver from reimposed sanctions on Iran.
As part of a deal to withdraw the YPG from Syria’s Manbij deal to defuse Ankara-Kurdish tensions, the U.S. and Turkey have begun to carry out joint patrols in the area.
Trump and Erdogan are expected to meet this weekend at a summit in Paris.