US-led coalition disagrees with Turkey over YPG-PKK ties

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Kurdish YPG fighters (L), Turkish troops (R). File photo

ARA News

A US-led coalition spokesperson on Saturday told ARA News that for the United States there is a difference between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The US-led coalition recognizes the PKK as a threat to Turkey.

“We disagree with the Turkish position that the YPG and the PKK are the same organization. The Coalition recognizes the threat the PKK poses to Turkey, but Turkey cannot pursue that fight at the expense of our common fight against terrorists that threaten us all,” the coalition spokesperson said in an exclusive interview with ARA News.

“We call on all countries in the region to remain focused on the fight to defeat ISIS, which is the greatest threat to regional and worldwide peace and security,” the official said.

On 25 April, Turkish air strikes hit the Karacok mountain near the town of Derik in northeastern Syria, killing at least 20 YPG fighters and wounding 18 others. Since then clashes broke out and continued between the YPG and Turkish military forces in several areas in northern Syria.

On Friday, U.S. forces started monitoring the situation along the Syria-Turkey frontier after cross-border fire between the Turkish military and YPG this week that followed Turkish shelling to the Kurdish town of Derbassiye.

The forces would report to senior U.S. commanders, a Kurdish official Sharvan Kobani told Reuters after meeting U.S. military officials in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border.

Coalition forces, accompanied by YPG fighters, reportedly conducted a tour along the border areas between Derbassiye, Qamishli and Derik–which was targeted on 25 April by the first Turkish attacks.

“Coalition soldiers visited Derik to survey the damage and provide aide to our SDF partners who were killed by uncoordinated Turkish air strikes,” the coalition spokesperson told ARA News on Saturday.

“The SDF [YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces] have proven a highly reliable and effective force in defeating ISIS in Syria; to date they have liberated more than 8000 square kilometers of territory in the countryside around Raqqa, which keeps the whole world safer since ISIS had used the city as a command and control node for international terrorism,” the official added.

On Saturday, pictures were posted by local Syrian Kurdish journalists of US armored vehicles entering the Kurdish city of Qamishli.

“This is a message from the United States to Turkey to stop attacking the YPG, since they fear this could threaten the anti-ISIS Raqqa operation,” local Kurdish journalist Heybar Othman told ARA News.

Othman further said that three US army units will be deployed on the border area to prevent further attacks. “The first unit will be spread out between Dirbesiyê [Derbassiye] and Serikaniye, the second unit between Serikaniye and Tel Abyad, and the third unit will be deployed between Kobani and Tel Abyad,” he said.

This however still leaves the region of Afrin vulnerable to more Turkish attacks, although there is also a Russian army presence there.

The delegation of the US Army included 8 commanders of the coalition accompanied by leaders of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.

In the meantime, Ilham Ahmed, the co-president of the Democratic Council of Syria, said it is dangerous to equate the PKK to the Syrian Kurdish YPG.

“Erdogan justifies these illegal attacks with the same baseless claim: that the YPG is the same as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is currently fighting the government inside Turkey,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post.

“This claim is based on the fact that we share a founder and many intellectual values with the PKK — but this is equally true of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a legal political party in Turkey with 58 members in the Turkish parliament. They are no more PKK than we are, and any attempt to equate us with the PKK is disingenuous,” she said.

“Erdogan knows this. He knows that our political and military leadership is completely separate from that of the PKK. He knows that any attempt to combine YPG with PKK would run contrary to our core value of decentralization of power. He knows we are not using northern Syria to launch attacks on Turkey. He knows all this. He just doesn’t care,” she concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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