WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (UPI) — Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said a potential Obama administration plan to arm Syrian Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State militant group would further breakdown relations between the two countries.
Yildirim, speaking to reporters Thursday, said Turkey and the United States are not in agreement about the status of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, People’s Protection Units and others, collectively known as the Syrian Democratic Front. Turkey considers them to be terrorist organizations and objects to Washington’s relationship with the groups.
The New York Times reported the plan, being discussed by National Security Council staff, is being viewed as a way to speed up the fight against the IS, also identified as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. President Barack Obama told aides he wants an offensive underway before he leaves office in early 2017 with an aim at liberating Raqqa, the militant group’s self-proclaimed capital, a defense source told the Times.
It would be a significant shift in U.S. policy and could cause further tensions with Turkey, the United States’ NATO ally in the conflict. Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, People’s Protection Units and others, collectively known as the Syrian Democratic Front, to be terrorist organizations and objects to Washington’s relationship with the groups.
“Either the [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party] or [People’s Protection Units], we identify them as the offshoot of the [ Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. They have nothing to do with our Kurdish brothers. Our Kurdish brothers are living in Syria. We have [Kurdish-origin] citizens in Turkey, too, and there are Kurds in Iraq. Our country and nation has no problem with them,” Yildirim said.
“However, one should not fight against a terrorist organization using another terrorist organization.”
In the past years, the United States has provided small arms and munitions to the Syrian Arabs, a Kurdish minority group acceptable to Turkey. The United States has also made some 350 supply drops to the Syrian Arab group.
Khaled Issa, Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party representative in France, told ARA News further U.S. intervention could be helpful.
“Everyone knows ISIS is supported through Turkey, so the U.S. needs to support us to shut the Turkish border in the face of terrorists, and to liberate the Shahba area [northern Aleppo] to cut the border,” he said.
The proposal has not yet been officially presented for any decision, the Times reported. The White House declined to comment.