Spokesman tries to smooth over issue when pressed by Anadolu Agency
The Pentagon on Monday eluded question regarding statements by a spokesman who said the U.S. urged the terrorist PKK/PYD organization to “rebrand” itself to make the group more acceptable to Turkey.
“I don’t have anything on that,” was spokesman Jeff Davis’ response to an Anadolu Agency question about the comments delivered last week by Army Gen. Raymond Thomas at a security conference.
Thomas said the U.S. urged its main Syrian ally to rebrand itself as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to avoid Turkish concerns and to give the terror group a voice in Syria's future.
But Davis attempted to gloss over the issue Monday.
“We have worked very hard to change the ethnic composition of the SDF and when it started it was primarily ethnic Kurds,” Davis said, claiming the split is now “50/50 " between Kurds and Sunni Arabs.
Davis claimed the SDF is a “multi-ethnic representative force” and “the most effective fighting force” in Syria in terms of getting towns and cities liberated from Daesh.
The U.S. has supported the PKK/PYD, along with several other Arab militia groups under the umbrella of the SDF. Washington continues to provide those groups with arms and equipment against strong objections from Turkey, that views the PKK/PYD as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror group that has waged a deadly 30-year campaign against the state.
It is a designated terror group in Turkey, the U.S., and EU.
Turning to the S-400 air defense systems deal between Ankara and Moscow, Davis said Turkey has the right to make decisions on its own about buying the system from Russia but he voiced concern about the equipment's compatibility.
"Turkey is a NATO ally and one of the cornerstone things we like to have with any our allies that operate, exercise and prepare to work together on common defense, which is the NATO is all about, is the ability to have equipment interoperates," Davis said. "That is how you have effective force can work together," he added.
Those comments follow remarks by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, who told the security conference Washington would be concerned if Turkey bought the air defense systems from Russia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday responded by saying the purchase is not "worrying.”
"Every country needs to take certain measures for its own security," Erdogan told reporters.
The S-400 system was introduced in 2007 and can carry three types of missiles capable of destroying ground and air targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles.
Ankara this year said it might buy the S-400 to build Turkey's first long-range air and anti-missile defense system to guard against threats in the region.
After unsuccessful negotiations with the U.S, Turkey reached an agreement on the S-400 with Russia.