Turkey-US ties won’t go anywhere unless Washington halts backing YPG: Defense Minister

Turkish defense minister has said that ties between Turkey and the United States will hardly improve if the latter does not halt its cooperation with the YPG in Syria, claiming that Washington’s claims that the PKK and the YPG are two different organizations have nothing to do with the reality.

“The most sensitive issue in our ties with the U.S. is this country’s support to the YPG, which is the PKK’s offshoot in Syria,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told daily Hurriyet in an interview published on February 9.

Turkey recognizes the YPG as a terrorist organization and underlines that it is the affiliate of the PKK on Syrian territories. The PKK is designated as a terror organization by Turkey, the European Union and the U.S.

Washington has long been in cooperation with the YPG, under the name of the SDF, as its local partner in the fight against ISIS.

“We expect them to see the realities concerning the YPG. If we cannot find a solution [to this problem], then we won’t go anywhere in ties with the U.S. One thing is certain: The YPG is receiving instructions from the PKK,” Akar stated.

Washington’s claims that the YPG has no any affiliation with the PKK are baseless, the minister said, adding it would be impossible to think that the American intelligence is not aware of the link between the PKK and the YPG.

Akar further state that the YPG’s attacks against civilians in the Syrian Kurdish city of Afrin and in Syrian Kurdistan, which Turkey has occupied, have recently increased and Ankara claims that the majority of these assaults were carried out by the YPG. He stressed that only a few of them were conducted by ISIS.

“Americans tell us that they cooperate with the YPG in a bid to fight DAESH (ISIS). And we told them to cooperate with us and not the YPG in their fight against DAESH. We told them hundreds of times that we were ready to cooperate to provide peace and comfort there,” he said, using an Arabic acronym of ISIS.

Another major problem between the two allies is Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 air defense systems from Russia despite the strong opposition of the U.S. The Trump administration had imposed sanctions on Turkey and the new administration under President Joe Biden has warned more punitive actions may follow in the coming period.

When recalled whether Turkey can use the S-400s in the same way Greece has been doing with regard to its Russian-made S-300s, Akar said, “Yes, it’s possible. But it is not limited to the S-300s in Crete. Many former Warsaw Pact countries in Europe who have joined the NATO do still possess weapon systems from the Soviet era. These weapons are kept within the NATO system. We told them: We are open to negotiating the model being implemented for the S-300s in Crete.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has reaffirmed that any talks between Turkey and the U.S. to this end can take place under the NATO roof, but Washington has opposed to it, Akar said.

“In the meantime, we should also see the commercial dimension of the U.S. position concerning the S-400s. Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400s from Russia opens a way for the other countries, too. They want to stop the acquisition of these systems by other countries for commercial purposes, too,” he suggested.

The S-300s deployed in Crete Island had been purchased by the Greek Cyprus in late 1990s. Greece had approved to deploy them in their territories after Turkey’s strong reaction to the Greek Cypriot acquisition of the systems. Greece does not keep the systems operational. It tested the systems once in the past years.

When recalled this, Akar said: “There is nothing like that we will always use them. These systems are made operational depending on the threat assessment. It’s us who decide on this.”

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