President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday lashed out at Western states, accusing them of “standing by terrorists” in failing to support Turkey’s operation against Syrian Kurdish fighters.
“Can you imagine the whole West stood by the terrorists and all attacked us including Nato member states and European Union countries?” Erdogan said in Istanbul.
“Since when did you start to side with terror? Did PYD-YPG (Syrian Kurdish forces) join Nato and we do not know about it?” he asked.
Ankara says the YPG is a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the EU.
Ankara’s military action against Kurdish forces who played a key role in the fight against the Islamic State group has drawn widespread international criticism and prompted some Nato countries to suspend new arms sales.
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly voiced “serious concerns” about the military operation launched on October 9 to push Syrian Kurdish forces back from the border.
Erdogan denied any territorial ambition saying: “Turkey does not have an eye on any country’s territory ... We consider such an accusation as the biggest insult directed to us.”
Turkey has announced a 120-hour suspension of the offensive following a deal with US Vice President Mike Pence, under which Kurdish fighters were to withdraw to allow a “safe zone” to be set up along the border.
Meanwhile, dozens of US armoured vehicles with American soldiers aboard crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan from Syria yesterday.
The withdrawing convoy crossed the Tigris River at the Fishkhabur border post near the Turkish frontier, en route to Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, where there is a US base.
The United States announced the withdrawal of 1,000 American soldiers deployed in northeast Syria on October 13, the fifth day of Turkey’s offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers a terrorist group.