Turkey′s President Erdogan slams US for supporting Kurds in Syria | News | DW | 10.02.2016
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Turkey's President Erdogan slams US for supporting Kurds in Syria

Erdogan's criticism of the US comes at a time when the two long-time allies find themselves facing conflicting security threats. Turkey fears a Kurdish-controlled region on its border while the US fears IS attacks.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the United States for supporting Kurdish rebels inside Syria, whom Turkey views as terrorists who have turned the area into a "sea of blood."

Ankara summoned the US ambassador for consultation following Monday's comment by US State Department spokesman John Kirby that the US did not regard the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which operates primarily in Syria, as a terrorist organization - a view vehemently opposed by Turkey.

During a speech in Ankara to provincial leaders, Erdogan chided the US, "Are you [on] our side or the side of the terrorist PYD and PKK organization?"

The US does consider the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - which has waged a bloody independence movement in eastern Turkey for more than three decades - a terrorist organization, but views the PYD separately, as their most viable option to fight the Islamic State inside Syria.

Last summer the PKK broke a two-year-old cease fire, with a pair of deadly attacks against Turkish army officers and police.

Turks and Kurds skirmish

Escalating tensions further have been recent skirmishes between Turkish forces and Kurdish militants.

In one instance Ankara said one of its soldiers was killed and another injured during a fire fight with Kurdish militants crossing into Turkey. In another incident a Turkish police officer was killed and another injured when the PKK launched a rocket attack on an armored vehicle.

The Turkish army said they seized more than 30 pounds of explosives and four suicide-bomber vests when it detained 34 people trying to cross into Turkey from an area in Syria under Islamic State control.

But the area of Syria near where the soldiers clashed is controlled by the PYD.

Despite being strategic, long-term, NATO allies, the US and Turkey have differing security concerns in Syria.

Ankara fears military gains by Syrian Kurds against Islamic State along its 560-mile border with Syria will rekindle a Kurdish separatist movement within Turkey.

By contrast, Washington's biggest fear is the ongoing threat of IS terror attacks, like the one that devastated Paris in November, and left 130 people dead. They see the PYD as their most reliable proxy among various bands of militants fighting inside Syria.

"Hey America! How many times have we had to tell you?" Erdogan said in his fiery address. "Are you together with us or are you with the PYD?”

For now the answer appears to be “both.”

bik/jil (Reuters, AFP)