All who associate with PKK are legitimate targets, Turkish FM says

Any organisations that work with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will be considered legitimate targets, including the Syrian Kurdish party ENKS, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in an interview on Thursday.

“Whatever their names are, those who are with the YPG-PKK are not different in our eyes from the YPG-PKK, and they are legitimate targets,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish-majority organisation that acts as the armed forces of the de facto autonomous region in northeastern Syria.

Çavuşoğlu’s televised comments were in response to a Wednesday announcement by the two main Syrian Kurdish factions, the Syrian National Kurdish Council (ENKS) and the Kurdish National Unity Parties (PYNK), of various factions uniting to establish a joint administration, armed forces and general policies.

Syrian Kurds have been working on a unity deal since 2014, when a treaty was signed in Dohuk, northern Iraq, among four most influential factions to work towards unity in the Rojava region, the name Kurds use for northeast Syria. The recent agreement – facilitated by France and the United States – drew support from Iraqi Kurdistan’s ruling Barzani family and Mazlum Kobane, top general of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“If the United States is imposing sanctions on the (Syrian government) to carve out a region for PKK/YPG, who they supported to divide or weaken Syria, that is not right,” Çavuşoğlu said.

The YPG was a primary ground force in the U.S.-led coalition fighting against the Islamic State, and has received continuous support from Washington after Turkey launched a military incursion into northeast Syria in October to push the group back from the Turkish-Syrian border.

“We have been closely monitoring the efforts to join these groups together,” Çavuşoğlu said of the recent agreement. “I invited ENKS officials to Ankara in February… and we warned them that our relationship would be different if they allied with the PKK and YPG.”

ENKS told Çavuşoğlu that there would be no cooperation with the PKK or the YPG, the Turkey’s top diplomat continued.

“But later we saw that (the United States and France) put great pressure on them. And on others.” he said.

The United States has “attempted to pressure (the YPG) to weed out PKK members from Turkey or Qandil (a PKK camp in northern Iraq) on one hand, but on the other hand, they work to legitimise them,” Çavuşoğlu said.

The minister said Russia had also tried to integrate the YPG into the political process in Syria, but the Turkish government spoke to Moscow, which now sees “the truth that YPG and PKK are working together with other countries to divide Syria."

PKK has increased its influence in the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, “particularly in the Sulaimaniya region,” the minister said, adding that the shift to northern Iraq was due to the militant group losing strength in the mountainous areas in Turkey.

Certain nations use the PKK to shape the political landscape in the Kurdistan region “when they see that (Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party) and the Erbil administration can’t be brought to their line, Çavuşoğlu said, without mentioning the countries by name.

Lahur Talabany, co-president of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, responded to the Turkish foreign minister’s comments.

Sulaimaniya “has always been influenced by its sense of Kurdish patriotism,” Talabany said in a tweet. “Hence why it’s referred to as the city of resistance and sacrifice.”

Turkey believes some other Kurdish organisations, such as the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) in Iran, to be identical to the PKK, Çavuşoğlu said.

“Unfortunately, every country has different policies for the PKK and YPG. This is the reason why there is no resolute cooperation in the world against terrorism.”