(Today Zaman)- Turkey's top diplomat has sought to find a way to overcome the difference between Turkey and the US on the two sides' views of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) in the fight against the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), stressing that the YPG is a terrorist organization while the PYD is merely a political party.
According to the report in the Hürriyet daily, Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu said: “We should differentiate between the PYD and the YPG. The YPG is equivalent to the [Kurdistan Workers' Party] PKK, which is on both Turkey's and the US's lists of terrorist organizations,” Sinirlioğlu was quoted as saying on Thursday. “The PYD, however, is a [political] party, just like the [pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party] HDP in Turkey. The YPG is its armed wing. But the PYD doesn't hold arms in its hands,” Sinirlioğlu added, according to the report.
For the US-led coalition, the PYD and its armed wing the YPG have recently emerged as a leading ground force in the fight against ISIL. Turkey has been critical of the US for supplying weapons and munitions to PYD forces in their fight against ISIL. Last month, PYD leader Salih Müslim said that the US had supplied 50 tons of military aid to the PYD. After Müslim's remarks, a YPG spokesperson said that Müslim was just a politician who was not authorized to talk on such matters in the name of Kurdish forces.
Under US law, the PYD is not considered a terrorist organization, while the PKK is listed as terrorist. Ankara has repeatedly expressed its uneasiness over the arms supply to the PYD by the US. Judging by Sinirlioğlu's remarks, it appears that making a distinction between the PYD and the YPG is a way to bridge the gap between Turkey and the US over this matter for Ankara.
According to Hürriyet's report, Sinirlioğlu stressed that US Secretary of State John Kerry's recent remarks that Turkey and the US would soon start joint operations in to clear the area in Syria near the border with Turkey from ISIL terrorists only refers to air strikes. Sinirlioğlu was quoted as saying that no country, including the Gulf states and Russia, was considering sending ground troops to Syria at the moment, adding that there was no need for such a move.
Ankara wants “moderate Syrian opposition forces” and Turkmens to fight on the ground, Hürriyet said. Sinirlioğlu said Ankara and Washington have reached a consensus on the YPG issue and while Turkey's fight with the PKK is ongoing domestically, it is impossible to include the YPG in a US-Turkey joint military operation against ISIL.
Sinirlioğlu stated that the joint US-Turkey air operation against ISIL would take place between Azez and Jarablus (the 98 kilometer line along Syria's northwestern border with Turkey), which is west of the Euphrates river. “The PYD knows well that we will shoot them if they cross west of the river,” Sinirlioğlu said. If the PYD crosses west of the river, Turkey is worried that the Syrian Kurdish PYD would be able unite the cantons of Kobani, Jazira and Afrin and establish a continuous Kurdish entity in northern Syria.
Sinirlioğlu said the US has not made an effort to engage the YPG so far. According to the report, the Turkish foreign minister said that Turkey had explained to the US that the YPG is equivalent to the PKK and there are signals of a shift in the US attitude on the issue.
He also stressed that Turkey will continue its air strikes in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq as long as PKK camps remain there. He added that Russian support for the PYD does not affect the Turkish-Russian relationship negatively.
Russia entered the conflict in Syria short time ago by launching air strikes against Syrian opposition forces in an attempt to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and views the PYD is an important force against the ISIL militants.