Unlike US, British government fully backs Turkey's Syria, PKK policies

Published 10.06.2016 19:16
Updated 10.06.2016 23:04

In a written response to a very critical report by the U.K. House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, the British government described Turkey as a key ally in the fight against DAESH and fully supported Ankara’s efforts to fight the PKK

While the United States ignores Turkey's calls to stop its relations with the PKK affiliated Syrian terrorist groups, the British government extended strong backing to Ankara's fight against PKK terrorism and its Syria policy. Earlier in March, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report that the United Kingdom must press Turkey to refrain from taking any further action against the PKK's Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD). The report also ignored the PKK's new strategy to shift its terror from the mountains to urban areas and accused Turkey of hostility. In a written reply dated June 8 to the calls of the House of Commons, the British government said Turkey gives a legitimate fight against terrorism and acknowledged the links between the PKK and the PYD's armed wing, People's Protection Units (YPG). "The government does not recognise the committee's description of Turkey's policy towards the Kurds. We believe that Turkey has a legitimate right to defend itself against the PKK, a proscribed terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom that continues to kill innocent people in violent attacks."

"A PKK offshoot, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), claimed responsibility for a number of attacks recently, including an indiscriminate suicide car bomb attack on civilians in central Ankara on 13 March that killed 37 people. TAK has also publicly stated its desire to continue to target civilians. We believe that the PKK must immediately cease its terrorist attacks in Turkey," the statement said.

In regards to Turkey's concerns over PKK affiliates' expansionist policies in northern Syria, the statement said the British government shares "Turkey's concerns about the links between the YPG and the PKK, and the YPG's role in Syria. We are concerned by patterns of coordination between Syrian Kurdish forces, the Syrian regime and Russian air force, and their direct conflict with elements of the moderate armed opposition. We continue to support the territorial integrity of Syria. As such, we do not recognise calls by the PYD for an autonomous Kurdish area.

"The government is committed to safeguarding the United Kingdom's national security. To this end, we welcome Turkey's invaluable contribution to our shared objective of defeating DAESH, including through stopping extremists from reaching Iraq and Syria, and allowing use of its airspace and airbases for countering DAESH. Turkey has itself been a victim of DAESH's barbaric attacks - in Ankara, Istanbul, Suruc and elsewhere. The border town of Kilis has frequently been shelled, leading to significant loss of life," the statement added.

The British government said Turkey is a key partner for the EU in tackling the migration crisis and that they "recognize Turkey's generosity in hosting over 2.7 million refugees from Syria and around 300,000 of other nationalities."Ties between Washington and Ankara have been strained over the PYD and the YPG, with the U.S. insisting that it is an effective partner in the fight against DAESH. Ankara continues to reiterate that there cannot be any distinction between good or bad terrorist organizations and asserts that the PYD and the YPG are affiliated with the PKK, a designated terrorist organization by the U.S., EU and NATO. İncirlik Airbase in Adana, which is used by the U.S.-led anti-DAESH coalition for air offensives against DAESH, has come back into question.

Turkish officials has recently harshly criticized images of U.S. ground troops wearing uniforms with the insignia of the YPG during an operation against the DAESH stronghold of Raqqa. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that such images of an ally of Turkey are unacceptable. "Our advice for the U.S. is that they should wear DAESH, al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda insignias when they go to other places in Syria and should wear Boko Haram insignias in Africa," he said, saying it was a double standard and hypocritical.

Recalling remarks from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the YPG and PYD, Çavuşoğlu said the U.S. told them the groups are not to be trusted and that the country was on Turkey's side in the fight against terrorism. "[But now] they are wearing the insignia of a terrorist organization, which is responsible for the last two terrorist attacks in Ankara," he said.

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