Washington has expressed its growing frustration over Turkey’s participation in the Astana talks with Russia and Iran to find a permanent solution to the Syrian crisis while overlooking Pentagon’s close ties with PKK-affiliated terrorist groups.
“What’s wrong with this picture?,” asked U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo in a Senate hearing Thursday, displaying a picture of three leaders – President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at last week’s summit in Ankara.
“The U.S. isn’t even present,” he added as he questioned the country’s foreign policy and grilled Pompeo, who has been tapped to replace Rex Tillerson as the secretary of state.Menendez then went on to criticize Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defense systems. Referring to Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch, which was carried out to clear Turkey-Syria border of PKK threats, he asserted that the country has been waging a war against the Kurds, a U.S. ally in the fight against Daesh.
Evaluating the U.S. senator’s comments, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Bülent Turan told Daily Sabah: “The U.S. senator is unable to understand why a NATO country would purchase the S-400. So, let’s ask him, how a NATO country can support the PKK and its affiliates in Syria, groups that are attacking one of its allies? I think the CIA director should clarify this issue before everything else.”
“Turkey is not a U.S. colony. It is in a position to determine its own policies and develop relations with other countries according to its interests. Turkey removed terrorism threats from Afrin. Instead of criticizing Ankara, Washington should reconsider its strategy on the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) and refrain from supporting terrorist groups,” Turan added.
At the hearing, Pompeo told Menendez that “Turkey, Iran and Russia were there to share Syria,” and added that Turkey’s operation in Afrin made “an incredibly complex situation even more complex.”
Relationships between Turkey and the U.S. have suffered due to the latter’s support for the YPG, since the days of the Obama presidency. Current President Donald Trump has followed suit in Syria by arming the YPG, a stance Ankara had hoped would change with the new administration. Many in the U.S. have taken the PKK terrorist groups Syrian affiliate YPG as the main representative of Syrian Kurds, despite documented oppression by the group in areas under its control. The U.S. stance often reg
arded as a contradiction because the PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization not only by Turkey but also by the U.S., the U.K and the European Union.
A number of U.S. generals have also been photographed with top YPG terrorist figures. In February, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jamie Jarrard posed with YPG-led Manbij Military Council commander Muhammed Abu Adeel, near Manbij. Also in last June, Senior PKK militant Şahin Cilo, who is on the Interior Ministry’s most wanted terrorist list with a bounty of TL 4 million ($976,372), was seen with a U.S. commander in Syria’s Karachok region.Turkey says the YPG’s ultimate aim is to establish an autonomous region in northern Syria by connecting the PYD’s northwestern Afrin canton to the Kobani and Jazeera cantons in the northeast, which Ankara considers to be a “terror corridor.” As a result of the U.S.’s broken promises, Turkey has also shifted its position and vowed to clear all terrorists from northern Syria, including Manbij and areas east of the Euphrates.