Today’s Zaman, Feb 24, 2016 (and more news from Turkey further below)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that Syrian Kurdish militia group the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which the U.S. calls an effective partner in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a terrorist group linked with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and urged for it to be excluded from a cease-fire agreed on by the US and Russia in Syria.
The U.S. and Russia have announced that a cease-fire in Syria will come into effect on Feb. 27 but that ISIL and al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, the al-Nusra Front, will be excluded.
Erdogan said the cease-fire agreement is positive in principle, but that the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, Iran and Russia were acting dishonourably in Syria by directly or indirectly permitting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to kill civilians. He also said it was disconcerting that the approach towards the Syrian opposition is “ambivalent” in the cease-fire arrangement while the Assad regime is backed openly.
Turkey, which has been shelling YPG positions since Feb. 13, insists that the group is the Syrian wing of the PKK and thus should be treated as a terrorist organization. Ankara also initially blamed the YPG for a car bomb attack in Ankara last week that killed 29 people, even though a PKK splinter group has since then claimed responsibility. “Our allies must understand that they are at a crossroads… It is a fact that the [the Democratic Union Party] PYD and YPG are terrorist organizations that are extensions of the PKK,” Erdogan said.
In an apparent response to US statements calling the YPG an effective partner in the fight against ISIL in Syria, Erdogan said the notion that the YPG was supported because it is fighting ISIL was a “great lie.”
“The PYD is supported because it fights against ISIL. Nusra Front is also fighting against ISIL. Why is it bad?” he asked.
In remarks on Friday, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said the U.S. continues to recognize the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization while viewing the YPG or the PYD, its political arm, differently. In response to Erdogan’s earlier remarks that the arms supplied by the U.S. to the YPG are used against civilians in Turkey and Syria, Toner denied the U.S. has supplied any weapons to the YPG and said there has been no evidence that the YPG smuggles weapons to the PKK.
“It is an insult to our intelligence and the intelligence of the whole world to say to an organization that declares it is acting together with the PKK that ‘no, you have nothing to do with the PKK.’ No one has the right to mock us,” the Turkish president said. “Should the PKK-PYD detonate their bombs not in Ankara but in other capitals so that it [the PYD and YPG] is recognized as a terrorist organization?” he asked.
“We never wish for it, but when such incidents happen in Washington or Brussels, we would be as saddened as we are for Ankara. We do not differentiate between terrorist organizations so we do not differentiate between types of pain.”
Erdogan also accused Russia of continuing to violate Turkish airspace, three months after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border.
Rights and freedoms in Turkey regressed further in 2015, says Amnesty International, Today’s Zaman, Feb 24, 2016
An annual report was released by prominent rights watchdog Amnesty International showing a dramatic decline in human rights, particularly freedom of the press, in Turkey over the course of 2015.
Former football star, ex-AKP deputy Hakan Sükür faces up to 4 years in jail for ‘insulting Erdogan’, Today’s Zaman, Feb 24, 2016
Turkish air force hits PKK targets in the southeast of Turkey and in Iraq, Today’s Zaman, Feb 24, 2016
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