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Turkey said on Thursday the U.S. special envoy in the battle against Islamic State should be removed because he supported Kurdish militants, and warned that Ankara would act unilaterally if it faced attack from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.
Axar.az reports citing Reuters.
The comments, which followed a White House meeting on Tuesday between President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump, reflected Turkish anger at Trump's decision to arm YPG fighters who are part of a force aiming to recapture the Islamic State-held Syrian city of Raqqa.
Ankara regards the YPG militia as an extension of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants fighting a decades-old insurgency in southeast Turkey, while Washington sees the YPG as its most reliable ally for the Raqqa campaign.
Turkey has long complained that U.S. policy against Islamic State in Syria has favored the YPG over Arab rebel forces, a policy that Turkish officials believe is driven partly by Washington's envoy to the international coalition against the jihadist group.
"Brett McGurk, the USA's special envoy in the fight against Daesh (Islamic State), is definitely and clearly giving support to the PKK and YPG. It would be beneficial if this person is changed," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.
The United States and the European Union, along with Turkey, designate the PKK a terrorist organization.
Erdogan, speaking to reporters at the Turkish embassy in Washington after the talks with Trump, said he told the U.S. president that Turkey would not hesitate to strike if it faced any sort of attack from the YPG, Turkish media reported.
"We clearly told them this: if there is any sort of attack from the YPG and PYD against Turkey, we will implement the rules of engagement without asking anyone," Sabah newspaper cited him as saying. The PYD is the YPG's political arm.
Erdogan did not specify what measures he might order, but said Turkey had shown its fighting capabilities when Turkish forces and Syrian rebels seized territory in northern Syria last year, pushing back Islamic State fighters and prompting a limited withdrawal of the YPG militia.
"Indeed we did this in Rai, Jarablus, al-Bab. Turkey showed what it can do," Erdogan said. "We will not give terrorist groups breathing space domestically or abroad."
2017.05.18 / 21:48