Turkey's Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has slammed the remarks of Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy in Syria, for suggesting "connections between Turkey and the presence of terrorist groups in Syria's Idlib," pointing to Washington's intense ties with the PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorists in northern Syria.
Speaking on Turkish television network TVnet Monday, Kalın said that Turkey does not control Idlib province, saying instead that the Assad regime, Russia and the U.S., via the YPG terrorist group, have established a presence around the city of Idlib.
"There has been a huge refugee flow across our borders and we have carried out humanitarian missions in Idlib via NGOs including [The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority] AFAD and Kızılay. After the evacuation of Aleppo, the population greatly increased in [Idlib], where nearly 2 million people now live. Those people have been crammed into a narrow area and, sometimes, they are crossing into Turkey. Our only aim is to create a suitable environment for Syrians living in Idlib," he said.
Noting that there are many different ethnic groups in the city accounting for the changing dynamics there, Kalın said it is unacceptable to blame Turkey for something it doesn't even have any connection with, asserting: "In the Middle East, when things go wrong someone is always looking for a scapegoat."
The Presidential spokesman reiterated that this is not the first time such false accusations have been made against Turkey, pointing to past accusations that Turkey "bought oil from Daesh," an accusation that was never proven and resulted in a U.S. apology to Ankara.
During the U.N. Security Council meetings in New York in September 2014, then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry implied that there were documents proving Turkey's alleged oil trade with Daesh. While Ankara requested that the U.S. provide documented proof immediately, the U.S delivered the alleged documents in January 2015. However, after careful examination of the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) documents, officials from the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) revealed that the geographic locations indicated in the document that allegedly proves that Daesh's oil trade was conducted with Turkey did, in fact, indicate an asphalt plant located in Turkey's southeastern province of Kilis.
In the wake of the incident, the CIA apologized to Turkey for the false accusations, with U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass confirming the apology.
Kalın also said that even though Turkey is part of the anti-Daesh coalition, Western media outlets including the New York Times and the Washington Post made similar claims without providing any evidence. "Eventually, did they [the media outlets] reveal any proof? Who bought the oil and where did [Turkey] buy it from? At that time, we insistently reiterated that war against terrorism necessitates global cooperation," the Presidential spokesperson said.
In 2014 and early 2015, several U.S. media outlets presented this allegation but, like the CIA, failed to deliver concrete proof to substantiate the claims.
In a written statement released Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hüseyin Müftüoğlu also criticized McGurk for his "provocative" statements.
"Our reaction to the statements of Brett McGurk […] In which he associates Turkey with the presence of terrorist organizations in Idlib, was brought to Mr. McGurk's attention at a high-level demarche. His statements, which could be characterized as provocative, were vehemently denied," Müftüoğlu said.
Meanwhile, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported on the U.S. military's latest batch of deliveries to YPG-held areas in northern Syria on Monday night.
According to the AA reports, 100 trucks delivered arms to al-Hasakah province, which is held by the PKK's Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The military convoy includes "Hummer" armored vehicles, 3,000 RPG-7 rocket launchers, 1,000 AT-4 and SPG-9 anti-tank weapons, mortars, sniper rifles and night vision glasses.
Since June, the U.S. has delivered 809 trucks of weapons to the terrorist group.
The PYD controls al-Hasakah in the east, northern Raqqah, Manbij to the east of Aleppo, Afrin and Tal Rifaat.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and EU, has waged a separatist insurgency against the Turkish state for more than 30 years, in which more than 40,000 people have been killed. It is also involved in the illicit production, manufacturing and trafficking of drugs.
However, the U.S. considers the PYD's armed YPG militia to be an effective force in the fight against Daesh in Syria, whereas Turkey, a NATO ally, argues that as a result of the ideological and organizational links between the groups, the U.S.'s support for the YPG is being transferred directly to the PKK to ultimately be used against the Turkish state and its people. The situation has caused tensions between Washington and Ankara, with the former saying that supporting the YPG is the only option to defeat Daesh and the latter saying an alternative could be found through an alliance with local Arab tribes backed by countries in the region, rather than supporting and arming "a terrorist group."