Chief of Staff Akar stresses PKK ties to YPG despite US denial

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
Published 25.10.2017 23:41

Images from Raqqa have once more proved that the U.S.-backed Democratic Union Party (PYD), its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the PKK were all "arms of the same structure," Turkey's Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said yesterday in a conference in the U.S.

While the PYD and the YPG have been U.S. allies in the fight against Daesh in Syria, the PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU, and Turkey.

Gen. Akar underlined Turkey's concerns over the YPG hanging posters with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's pictures in Raqqa and urged the U.S. to stop its military support for the PKK/PYD, which operates under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) name.

Highlighting Turkey's counterterrorism efforts in the region, including its anti-Daesh operations, Operation Euphrates Shield and the Astana meetings, Akar said the existence of terrorist groups negatively affects the security situation there.

Earlier last week, members of the PKK/PYD posed in front of a banner showing jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's picture, following their capture of the Syrian city of Raqqa from Daesh.

Ankara says the group is closely affiliated with the PKK, which has raged a 33-year war against Turkey, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths.

The two-day conference in Virginia, hosted by Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, saw more than 70 military leaders from around the globe, discuss global counterterrorism efforts, current threats and alliances.

At the program, Gen. Akar focused on Turkey's multifaceted counterterrorism efforts, particularly against the PKK, the PYD, and Daesh on its southern border.

He highlighted the regional threat posed by these terrorist groups and Turkey's contribution to regional peace.

Turkey has repeatedly objected to the U.S.' support and designation for the PKK/PYD as a "reliable ally" in fighting Daesh in Syria. The U.S. has provided arms and equipment to the terrorist group.

Meanwhile, Dunford also slammed the poster incident while speaking at the same meeting.

"We condemn the PKK as a terrorist organization. We are siding with our Turkish allies and share their definitions of the PKK."

One of the hosts of the meeting, Brett McGurk, the special envoy for the Global Coalition to counter Daesh, on the other hand, retracted by saying "the chief of staff said what had to be said over the issue."

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert also commented on the issue by saying they were "calling all parties to stay away from activities that may create new tensions in the region" while underlining that the U.S. was working closely with Turkey on building security in the region and fighting terrorism.

However, Nauert said she was not aware of any video response released by the YPG regarding the incident.

Earlier Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the U.S. authorities were caught red-handed over the YPG-PKK ties but are trying to ignore the fact by just saying, "Öcalan was not worth the respect."

On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Turkey issued a statement reiterating its misgivings about Öcalan, in an apparent response to criticism from inside the Turkish government over the banners.

"The PKK is listed among foreign terror organizations. Öcalan has been jailed in Turkey for his actions related to the PKK. He is not a person to be respected," the statement said.

The statement came after a huge banner depicting the jailed terrorist leader was displayed by the PKK/PYD in Syria's Raqqa Thursday. The group recently took control of the city from Daesh.

In a video released Sunday, the terrorist group rebuffed U.S. criticism of the group for hanging the banners and said without Öcalan's ideologies, the YPG would not be what it is today.

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