Erdogan spokesman slams U.S. military for backing Syrian Kurdish militia

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman lashed out at the U.S. military on Thursday after it re-tweeted a statement by a Kurdish-dominated alliance it backs in Syria saying it had no links to Kurdish militants fighting the Turkish state.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses district governors at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, January 10, 2017. Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan addresses district governors at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, January 10, 2017. Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

The Syrian Democratic Forces, the main U.S. partner on the ground in Syria in the fight against Islamic State, includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK militant group, which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

“SDF confirms that it has no affiliation or ties to PKK,” U.S. Central Command said on Twitter, re-tweeting a statement by the SDF in which it said it was not part of the PKK and wanted a strong relationship with neighbors including Turkey.

“Is this a joke or @CENTCOM has lost its senses?,” Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, replied.

“Do you believe anyone will buy this? The U.S. must stop trying to legitimize a terrorist group.”

U.S. support for the YPG has been a major sticking point between Washington and Turkey, a NATO ally and a member of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State.

Turkey is hoping that the incoming U.S. administration under President-elect Donald Trump will re-think its policy in Syria and stop providing support to Kurdish militia fighters.

(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Daren Butler)


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