Turkey calls on U.S. to end support for Syria’s Kurds

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Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın urged the United States on Thursday to end support for Kurdish-led forces in Syria.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), form the basis of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, but are considered a security threat by Turkey for historic links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“The U.S. should end its support to the PYD/YPG,” Kalın said in an interview with TRT Haber, Turkey’s state-run broadcaster.

YPG fighters allied with the United States to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic coalition of militias.

Earlier this week, the new U.S. administration under President Joe Biden reiterated its support for the Kurdish-led forces in their ongoing operations against ISIS, a shift in tone from the more transactional approach taken by former President Donald Trump.

Kalın said he had discussed the issue during a phone call with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan last week, the first contact between Ankara and the new Biden administration.

The pair also discussed U.S. sanctions imposed on Turkey over the purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system, and the activities of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, Kalın said. Turkey accuses Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, of masterminding a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will likely meet his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken “in the coming days”, Kalın said.

Ankara has repeatedly indicated a willingness to mend ties with the U.S. under Biden, but relations have already been strained by domestic Turkish issues.

Last week, the U.S. State Department strongly condemned anti-LGBT rhetoric used by Turkish government officials against student protesters.

And on Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry slammed as foreign interference U.S. calls for the release of jailed philanthropist and civil society activist Osman Kavala.

Ahval

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