Cooperating with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in any potential operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria’s Raqqa would mean “putting Syria’s future at risk,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Speaking at a joint press conference with the visiting U.K. Secretary of State Boris Johnson, Çavuşoğlu said the anti-ISIL coalition member countries lack a “results-oriented strategy,” leading to “mistakes” such as reliance on “terror organizations.”
Çavuşoğlu said that more than 200 members of the YPG, the military wing of the Syrian Democratic Union (PYD), are still west of the Euphrates River. He also criticized the U.S. for not meeting its promise of securing the withdrawal of the Syrian Kurdish fighters from the region.
“Either they cannot influence the YPG, or they don’t want to send them [to the east of the Euphrates],” Çavuşoğlu said on Sept. 27.
While Çavuşoğlu expressed Turkey’s satisfaction with the U.K.’s stance against terror “that does not exclude” the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), he stressed that “some European countries are engaging in double standards” in the fight against terror. He condemned those countries, naming Belgium primarily.
He particularly referred to the PYD congress recently held in Brussels, and said the group is not interested in preserving a united Syria but rather aims for a “separate canton” to be governed by itself.
Çavuşoğlu said the joint congress by the PKK and YPG convened in Brussels was evidence of the link between two groups.
For his part, Johnson said his Turkish hosts had not brought up the controversy caused by the crude poem he composed mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this year. He was yet to meet Erdoğan when he made the statement.
When a reporter asked during the news conference whether he would apologize for the poem, Johnson simply said no one had yet brought it up.
He also said he hoped for a new “jumbo” free trade deal with Turkey after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, adding that “We are leaving the EU, but we are not leaving Europe.”
Johnson noted that the U.K. and Turkey have very similar positions on Syria, saw grounds for “cautious optimism” on the Cyprus issue, and vowed to continue supporting Turkey’s bid for European Union membership.
He stressed that Turkey and Britain stand together against terrorism and added that Turkish officials had asked London to identify and deal with outlawed Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) elements in the U.K. “We’ll do our best,” he said.
Johnson, one of the most prominent public faces of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, previously made a strong case for Turkish membership of the bloc. He made his first visit to Turkey as Britain’s foreign secretary after leading the successful Brexit campaign that played on anti-Turkish sentiments.