Will Syrian Kurds Become a 'Stumbling Block' in Washington-Ankara Ties?

© AFP 2023 / LOUISA GOULIAMAKIA man holds the flag of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as Kurds living in Greece protest in central Athens on October 8, 2014
A man holds the flag of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as Kurds living in Greece protest in central Athens on October 8, 2014 - Sputnik International
On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan harshly criticized Washington for sending US envoy Brett McGurk to Kobani in northern Syria for talks with representatives of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

In ultimate form, Erdogan demanded that the US make a choice.

"How can we trust you? Is it me that is your partner or is it the terrorists in Kobani?" Erdogan said, as cited by AP.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is losing his wits over the Kurdish issue. The Turkish leader fiercely criticized the US government after Washington sent an envoy to the city of Kobani controlled by Syrian Kurds. - Sputnik International
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The PYD is believed to have ties with the members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), with whom the Turkish government is currently fighting in southeastern Turkey.

On February 1, a delegation led by McGurk arrived to a Kurdish airport that is used by the US Air Force. The team comprised 17 people, including representatives of Britain and France. The US envoy held talks with Kurdish officials and visited some combat zones, including Kobani near the Turkish-Syrian border. This was the first visit by a US official to Syria since 2012 when the US embassy in Damascus shut down.

Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters walk with their weapons at the eastern entrances to the town of Tal Abyad in the northern Raqqa countryside, Syria, June 14, 2015 - Sputnik International
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Last year, Washington partnered with Kurdish fighters when US-led airstrikes helped the Kurds to drive Daesh terrorists out of Kobani.

Commenting on the move, Erdogan underscored that Ankara considers the PYD a "terrorist group." Nevertheless, the US has long supported Kurds fighting against Daesh in Syria.

The news came amid the growing tensions between Washington and Ankara, and the Kurdish problem is continuing to paint Erdogan into the corner.

"Relations between the US and Turkey were always difficult. By 2006, America established an autonomous de-facto region in Iraq – Iraqi Kurdistan. Since then, US-Turkish relations have shown signs of strain," Alexei Fenenko, a security analyst at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Svobodnaya Pressa.

Members of the Kurdish internal security forces (known as the Asayish) check vehicles on December 16, 2015 in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli as tensions rose between regime forces and Kurdish fighter in the city - Sputnik International
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In autumn 2007, Ankara made attempts to launch a military operation against Iraqi Kurdistan, but the US refused to support it. In response, Ankara began rapprochement with Moscow, including Ankara’s stance on the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. For example, Turkey denied entrance to US ships carrying humanitarian aid for Tbilisi.

In summer 2015, Turkey carried out airstrikes in Syria against both Daesh and Kurdish fighters. In July, a meeting between NATO foreign ministers was held in Antalya, resulting in Turkey ending its military operation in Syria.

It seems that Washington made it clear it would not approve attacks on the Kurds, the analyst said.

"However, there is a question – why is Erdogan presenting his ultimatum only now? I can't rule out that Washington has promised something to Ankara if it was against the Russian operation in Syria. Erdogan may have demanded unconditional support, but the US said no," he explained.

The US does not consider Turkey a key partner.

"Washington is using Ankara in its game against Russia, and at the same time the Americans would not even guarantee Turkey’s territorial integrity. For Erdogan, this is a warning sign," Fenenko concluded.

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