The Defense Ministry yesterday reacted positively to the U.S. pledge saying that it will retrieve all weapons given to the PKK Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party's (PYD) People's Protection Units (PYD) militia once it defeats DAESH in Raqqa, Syria, but added that Turkey will closely monitor the process. The reaction came after U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, in a recent letter to his Turkish counterpart, assured that all weapons in question will be recovered. Defense Minister Fikri Işık, calling it a positive sign, said that the implementation of the pledge would be crucial and that it is important to record the pledge in writing.
"The U.S. did not keep its promise in Manbij. It is a written pledge for us. I see the letter as a positive step, but implementing the promise is more essential," he said. Işık added that the letter sent to him was welcomed in Ankara.
"It is a significant letter in terms of the U.S. taking Turkey's sensitivities into consideration. We value it in this regard. Their attitude was different in the beginning. They have started to take Turkey's concerns into consideration," Işık said.
Underscoring that the U.S. can be successful if it really wants to retrieve weapons from the YPG, Işık said, adding that it would not be a move of goodwill to trip up Ankara.
"We will follow this if the U.S. says it will retrieve these weapons after its business is done with the Raqqa operation," he added.
Işık said he has an upcoming meeting with Mattis next Wednesday. Explaining that he will discuss the issue at that meeting, he said that a joint mechanism to retrieve the weapons will be on the agenda.
Earlier last month, a Turkish official had told Daily Sabah that Turkey was seeking a written document on U.S. promises in Syria after repeated failures by the previous U.S. administration in keeping its word regarding the YPG. The recent letter appears to be a step in that direction.
ANY YPG THREAT TO BE ANSWERED
Işık also confirmed that any threat from the YPG would face retaliation from the Turkish military. "We said this to everyone including the U.S. It should be known that any hostile attitude by the terrorist group towards Turkey will be punished in the strongest terms," Işık said.
Reiterating that Turkey has every right to intervene anywhere its national security is threatened, Işık said Ankara reserves the right to destroy terrorist elements across the border.
Turkey considers the PYD and its YPG to be Syrian affiliates of the PKK, a proscribed terrorist organization according to the U.S., Turkey and the EU. The U.S. and EU do not share this opinion. Continuous U.S. support for the YPG has caused tensions in ties between Washington and Ankara. The U.S. says that supporting the YPG is the only option to defeat Daesh. Ankara, on the other hand, has said an alternative could be found with local Arab tribes, backed by countries in the region, instead of supporting "a terrorist group".