First Published: 2017-05-18

Turkey demands removal of US envoy for anti-IS coalition
Turkey demands removal of Brett McGurk, accusing him of 'giving support' to Kurdish separatists while US backs Kurdish militias in Syria.
Middle East Online

Brett McGurk

ANKARA - Turkey called Thursday for the removal of the US diplomat coordinating the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group, accusing him of backing Syrian Kurdish militias.

Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which Turkey considers a front for outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels.

"Brett McGurk is definitely giving support to the PKK and YPG. It would be useful if this person was replaced," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.

Last year, McGurk visited YPG members who controlled the Syrian town of Kobane and was awarded a plaque, drawing Turkey's wrath.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily told Washington at the time to choose between Ankara and "terrorists".

But Ankara is now upbeat about the future of relations with Washington under President Donald Trump, with Cavusoglu praising the new administration as "more sincere" after Erdogan's talks with the US leader this week.

Erdogan met Trump at the White House on Tuesday, with the two leaders pledging to improve ties between the NATO allies -- even as Erdogan gave a stern warning about Washington's arming of Kurdish militia in Syria.

"It is absolutely unacceptable to take the YPG-PYD into consideration as partners in the region, and it's going against a global agreement we reached," Erdogan said in Washington, referring to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, whose armed wing is the YPG.

The United States sees the YPG as the most effective force on the ground in the fight against IS jihadists.

- 'Good luck'-

Turkey is keen to join a future battle to recapture the de facto IS capital of Raqa in Syria, but only if Kurdish militia forces do not participate.

US officials told Ankara that the YPG would not constitute a threat for Turkey and that arms supplied by Washington would be used in Raqa and in the south, not against Turkey, Cavusoglu said.

In an address to Turkish businessmen in Istanbul on Thursday, Erdogan said he told Trump that Ankara would not join any Raqa operation given the YPG's participation.

"I've seen America is very sensitive on the Raqa issue and I said 'good luck', we cannot join an operation with a terror organisation," he said.

Erdogan also said he told Trump that if there were a YPG attack, Ankara would act unilaterally.

"I also said if those terror groups threaten our country we will apply our rules of engagement and do what's necessary ... because we have no time to lose," he said.

The Turkish leader also said he believed Washington "will knock on our door on the issue of Syria," in quotes published by the Hurriyet daily.

McGurk was in northern Syria Tuesday and Wednesday for talks with the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, and the YPG, according to a source in the nascent Raqa city civilian council.

The council has been set up to manage the city once IS fighters have been ousted.

The meetings focused on "the plan of attack on Raqa and providing support for people fleeing the fighting," the source said.

 

US halting support for Syria rebels

US maintains designation of Iran as top 'state sponsor'

More than 330,000 killed in Syria war

Morocco sentences 25 to prison over W. Sahara killings

Foreign food chains hoping for taste of Iran market

Rebel ambush kills 28 regime fighters near Damascus

Turkey slams 'dangerous' Cyprus energy plans

Saudi prince 'arrested over leaked abuse videos'

Israel boosts 'security measures' as Al-Aqsa tensions simmer

Kuwait expels Iranian diplomats over 'terror' cell

Germany vows to overhaul Turkey ties as row escalates

Home cooked meals a relief for fighters in Syria's Raqa

30 civilians dead in anti-IS strikes in Syria

Palestinian civilians urge ICC to speed up probe

Turkey PM opts for stability in light cabinet reshuffle

UN aid flight carrying journalists barred from Yemen

Former IS slaves fight for revenge in Raqa

US, Iran trade tit-for-tat sanctions

20 Yemeni civilians killed in air strike

14 killed in opposition infighting in Syria's Idlib

Egypt police kill top militants

Heavy rainfall hits Istanbul causing transport chaos

Palestinians protest Israeli security measures at Al-Aqsa compound

Saudi police question woman who wore miniskirt

Rebels, US-backed Kurds clash in northern Syria

Netanyahu says Hungary is 'standing up for' Israel

Lebanon army to launch operation near Syria border

Morocco delays currency reform amid speculation

Iran parliament vows to fight US 'adventurism'

4 killed in suicide car bomb at Kurdish checkpoint in Syria

Israel opposes Syria truce deal over Iran presence

Egypt to end visas on arrival for Qatari citizens

Erdogan to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia

Turkey court refuses to free six rights activists

Trump keeps Iran deal, but sanctions will stay in place

UAE FM warns Qatar is 'undermining' GCC allies

Jordanian soldier gets life sentence for killing 3 US trainers

14 Kuwaiti Shiite fugitives flee to Iran

9 militants killed in Sinai Peninsula

Israel to reopen sensitive Jerusalem holy site

Juncker: Turkey must stick to democratic values to join EU

Old City locked down after Jerusalem attack

Return to Mosul a distant dream for many displaced

Tragic end to Raqa family's hopes of burying loved ones

Germany confirms 2 nationals killed in Egypt