President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday that he will further discuss regional issues and Washington's support for the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party's (PYD) armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), with U.S. President Donald Trump days after the Pentagon issued a statement contradicting Trump's recent promise of ending weapons delivery to the terror group.
President Erdoğan said his telephone conversation Friday with President Trump "was a conversation in which the two sides were on common terms in Turkish-U.S. relations, for the first time after a long period." The president said he discussed various issues, including the YPG and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), adding that there will be another phone conversation in the following days.
President Trump said his country will no longer provide weapons to the YPG during a phone conversation with President Erdoğan on Nov. 24. The remarks of the U.S. president were welcomed by Ankara, but Turkish officials emphasized that the U.S. needs to take concrete steps and retrieve the weapons that it had provided to the terrorist group.
Even though Turkey has sternly warned the U.S. against supplying arms to the the PYD/YPG, the U.S. continues to cooperate with the group, claiming that the group "has been efficient" in the fight against Daesh. Turkish officials have reiterated on multiple occasions that the PYD and the YPG are no different than the PKK, which is a globally recognized terrorist group.
In an effort to allay Turkey's concerns, the U.S. government underlined that it would end its cooperation with the YPG once the fight against Daesh ends. With this in mind, Turkey has been stressing that the fight against Daesh is coming to a close, and there is no point in further cooperating with the terror group.
Meanwhile, just a couple days following the Trump-Erdoğan phone conversation, the Pentagon announced on Nov. 27 that the U.S. will continue its partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes YPG terrorists. The Pentagon also said they had previously told Turkey that the arms provided to the terrorists would be "limited, mission-specific and provided incrementally to achieve military objectives." Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said they were reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to the SDF based on requirements.
President Trump's and the Pentagon's different statements over the issue of arming terrorist groups have caused further confusion. Following the remarks from the Pentagon, it was reported in the media that 100 armored vehicles in northern Syria had been delivered to the SDF. In addition to the news of the U.S.'s continued support for the terrorist groups, it was also claimed in the media that the U.S. has paid $2.5 million toward the establishment of a TV channel named El-Yevm in Syria, which aims to conduct a smear campaign against Turkey.
Upon the recent developments, the question looms over whether the Trump administration will be able to keep its promises and stop arming the YPG. The issue has been adversely affecting relations between the U.S. and Turkey. Ankara has been underlining that in order to fix ties the U.S. should end arming terrorist groups since they would later pose security threats to Turkey and to the region as a whole.