Turkey’s foreign minister claims Syrian Kurdish militia aids outlawed PKK

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday that the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has been providing explosives to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) through tunnels in northeast Syria.

Minister Çavuşoğlu, in an article published on the New York Times, called on the United States to stop supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the majority-Kurdish YPG, arguing that the group is inseparable from the PKK, engaged in a decades-long conflict with Turkey over Kurdish self-rule.

 The PKK been designated a terrorist organisation by both Turkey and the United States.

“The [YPG] may present itself to the world as the group that fought Daesh, but it also smuggles explosives to the PKK by digging tunnels into Turkish land,” he said.

Çavuşoğlu said Turkey’s offensive will “liberate Syrians living there from the tyranny of terrorist organizations and eliminate the threat to Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity,” and, in turn, allow for the voluntary return of the displaced population.

The Turkish government, faced with rising anti-refugee sentiment in the country, has been planning to resettle over three million Syrian refugees in the country. To that end, the country had agreed with the United States in August to establish a safe zone along the Turkish border in the Kurdish-held north-eastern Syria. The ongoing incursion is a result of Turkey deciding to take unilateral action upon expressed dissatisfaction by the progress made in the matter.

“Turkey has never accepted a corridor run by a terrorist group on its border,” the minister said. “But the American security bureaucracy couldn’t bring itself to disengage from the group.”

Turkey has come to believe that the United States was playing for time in northern Syria as their Kurdish partner SDF “entrenched itself even deeper in Syria,” said the minister.

YPG has released ISIS prisoners and ushered them in the direction of Turkey, Çavuşoğlu said, citing a 2017 BBC article.

The minister referred to Turkey’s infrastructure investments (schools, hospitals, sports facilities and a border gate for trade with Turkey) in Syrian territory previously taken under its control, Jarablus and Afrin, and compared them with the city of Raqqa, which had served as the so-called capital of the Islamic State and suffered great damage in U.S.-led operations.

"The lessons learned in those operations will help us make it even better this time around," he said.

Since the incursion began on Wednesday, at least 28 civilians have been killed by the Turkish army, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).