Foreign Minister says Turkey will share photos showing weapons US has been giving to PKK/PYD
Turkey will "soon" share evidence that the United States has supplied the PKK/PYD terrorist organization with arms, the country's foreign minister said Friday.
Speaking to foreign media representatives in Istanbul, Mevlut Cavusoglu said the U.S. "is repeating a mistake" with the approval of secret cooperation between the Daesh and PKK/PYD terrorist groups in Syria.
A recent PKK/PYD deal to allow hundreds of Daesh terrorists to escape Raqqa has received a strong reaction from Turkey.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon on Tuesday defended the deal, saying it was part of a "local solution to a local issue".
But Cavusoglu warned that "YPG [PKK/PYD] is gaining more and more territory, which is a very risky development".
Referring to the "good cooperation between YPG and Daesh - between two terrorist organizations,” he said:
"Nobody denies it. We have been telling our U.S. allies and others in the coalition that there is no difference between YPG and the PKK and that YPG is not fighting for freedom or the unity of the country but fighting to gain more territory in the country."
Criticizing the U.S. for not keeping its promise that PKK/PYD forces would withdraw from Raqqa, he said:
"They have not been able to pull back YPG from any town... Now, you see the statement which said they would continue to work with YPG."
"We are going to share soon the photos and evidence showing weapons that the U.S. has been giving to YPG and also weapons made in other coalition states, including Germany."
Afrin: a serious threat
As for the northwestern Syrian province of Afrin, the minister said there were also terrorists in the region which targeted Turkey.
"They attack our security personnel, and they are using the weapons given by some countries in the coalition," he said.
"Afrin poses a serious threat to our national security. So wherever there are terrorists, we need to eliminate them."
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) are reportedly planning to set up 12 observation and security points in Idlib as part of the Astana peace process while preparing to extend the operation to Afrin and Manbij.
Turkish troops will be deployed to strategic points in Idlib, near its border with Afrin and Manbij, to monitor the region to prevent clashes between Syrian opposition fighters and Assad regime forces as well as outline a plan for an upcoming operation in the other two areas.
The Turkish military has already established six observation posts across Idlib.
Cavusoglu said the main role of the observers was to find out "who is violating the ceasefire".
"It is not an easy task," he said. "We need to identify all the radical groups and we need to eliminate them."
The minister also shared that Turkey had stopped and deported more than 5,000 foreign fighters in the past 4-5 years.
Around 3,000 others are under arrest in Turkey, he said.
Upcoming Syria talks in Sochi
On the Astana talks, Cavusoglu said: "We have been cooperating with Russia and we made a lot of progress."
"It has been a transparent process," he said. "Russia did a great job there. Turkey also has been a main actor and Iran also contributed. We agreed to make an assessment of the achievements."
Cavusoglu said both Turkey and Russia supported a political solution and the territorial integrity of war-torn Syria.
He underlined the need for "a transition period" during which he said all sides should be united.
The foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia and Iran will meet in Turkey's Mediterranean city of Antalya on the weekend ahead of a trilateral meeting on Syria in Russia’s Sochi city next Wednesday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will take part in the meeting in the Russian resort on Nov. 22 as well as his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
The three guarantor countries will discuss the progress on reducing violence in Syria and de-escalation zones which were established after the Astana talks.
Relations with the U.S.
Asked about bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.S., the minister said: "Overall, I cannot say that I am very much disappointed with Mr. Trump."
However, he added that the U.S. policy towards PKK/PYD "has unfortunately not changed".
The PKK/PYD is considered by Ankara as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror organization that has waged a more than 30-year war against the Turkish state, causing some 40,000 deaths.
The U.S. and the coalition have largely ignored PYD/PYG links to the PKK, which the U.S., EU, and Turkey lists as a terrorist group.
Also reminding about another problem between the two states - the extradition of Fetullah Gulen, the minister said:
"We requested his extradition, and we have submitted all the evidence that he was behind the failed coup ... Meanwhile, we requested (his) temporary arrest and a full investigation."
He said none of the demands were met.
"OK, extradition might take some time, but we needed to see the investigation.
"Gulen has been threatening us from there and still is free enjoying everything," he said.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup attempt of July 15, 2016 which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
Cavusoglu stated that there were many reports that FETO had violated and infiltrated the American system.
"It is very interesting that there is no investigation of him," he said.
The minister also talked about the arrest of a local employee at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul over alleged ties to FETO.
Following his arrest, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced the suspension of non-immigrant visa services to Turkish nationals.
A month later, the embassy announced visa applications were being processed on a limited basis at its diplomatic missions in Turkey.
The U.S. had claimed the decision to resume visa services came after Turkey’s assurance that no additional local employees of the U.S. mission would be investigated, detained or arrested.
Cavusoglu said: "We did not give any assurance. They asked whether there was another investigation and we said no."
Also touching on Turkish businessman Riza Sarraf, who has been in jail in the U.S. pending trial, the minister said Turkey sent a second diplomatic note on Wednesday to the U.S. asking it to clarify Sarraf’s condition following some media reports.
He was arrested last year on fraud and Iran sanctions-related charges.
"When you look at the indictment of Mr. Sarraf, it is also a FETO-motivated one. This is for sure."
Cavusoglu said FETO could not "succeed in the coup" and is now "trying to get U.S. support".
Underlining the importance of keeping the dialogue channels open, he said: "I am sure we will overcome our bilateral issues through dialogue."