ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 29 (UPI) — The United States has called on Turkey and the Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to ease tensions and focus on fighting the Islamic State.
Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama‘s special envoy for the U.S-led coalition against the Islamic State, said reports of Turkey and the YPG fighting south of the town of Jarablus — where the Islamic State was removed last week — are “unacceptable and a source of deep concern.”
“The United States was not involved in these activities, they were not coordinated with U.S. forces, and we do not support them,” McGurk wrote on Twitter, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense. “Accordingly, we call on all armed actors to stand down and take appropriate measures to deconflict open channels of communication.”
Earlier on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu warned the YPG must move east of the Euphrates River in Syria or face being targeted.
Turkey links the YPG, which operates in northern Syria, to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, an armed rebel group, and considers both to be terrorist organizations. Violence tied to the PKK, which is fighting for more Kurdish autonomy in the region, has left more than 40,000 people dead since the 1980s.
The YPG is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces militia coalition, which is supported by the United States.
”The YPG needs to retreat back to the east of Euphrates River, as they and the United States has previously pledged, and will be targeted if they fail to do so” Çavuşoğlu said during a press conference.
Turkey recently initiated Operation Euphrates Shield, a cross-border military offensive in which Turkish tanks and soldiers entered Syria to secure Turkey’s southern border — particularly against the threat posed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, Daesh and ISIL.
Çavuşoğlu said the main purpose of the offensive is to eliminate the Islamic State from the region, adding that airstrikes alone will not defeat the militant Islamist group.
“As you can see, even [targeted by] a small force, Daesh terror group flees the cities it controls,” Çavuşoğlu said. “We can clear Daesh from Iraq and from Syria through effective land operations … Leave aside the 65 countries in the coalition, if only five or six countries had collaborated on the issue, there would not have been any terrorist group named Daesh in Syria or in Iraq.”
The United States has called on both sides to focus their efforts on defeating the Islamic State.
“The U.S. is actively engaged to facilitate such deconfliction and unity of focus on ISIL, which remains a lethal and common threat,” McGurk added.