Outgoing UK Ambassador to Ankara Richard Moore says coalition knew of PKK-Daesh deal but could not stop it

The U.S.-led coalition in Syria knew in advance of a controversial deal last month to allow hundreds of Daesh fighters to leave the besieged city of Raqqah, according to Britain’s outgoing ambassador to Ankara.

"The coalition in contact with the SDF knew this in advance, I do not know whether this was briefed to Turkey. I have to think it was not, otherwise Turkey would have made its views very clear at the time," Richard Moore told Ankara’s Diplomatic Correspondents Association on Tuesday.

After the deal between Daesh and the SDF, a U.S.-backed force that consists largely of PKK/PYD terrorists, became public, Turkey has fiercely criticized it.

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The coalition was unable to stop the deal, said the British diplomat, explaining that the decision “was taken by the groups on the ground."

The deal reportedly allowed 250 fighters to flee Raqqah on Oct. 12.

The BBC reported that a huge convoy of around 50 trucks, 13 buses, and more than 100 Daesh vehicles left Raqqah, heading southeast to Daesh-controlled territory.

The report said Daesh also withdrew at least 10 vehicles loaded with arms and ammunition and the fighters included foreigners alongside Iraqis and Syrians.

Asked whether the terrorist PKK/PYD’s deal with Daesh also allowed the Daesh fighters' families to flee Raqqah, Moore said initial reports indicated that the deal "wasn’t for the families, it was for the fighters."

He also said: "I am not an expert on the story but some of the fighters were foreign fighters." Moore repeatedly underlined that Britain did not support the deal.

Turkey cites the PYD’s deep ties with the terrorist PKK -- a group responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Turkey -- in opposing U.S. cooperation with the PKK/PYD. The U.S. sees the PKK as terrorist, but its Syrian PYD offshoot as a “reliable partner” against Daesh.

NATO drill incidents

On last week’s incidents at a NATO drill in Norway, where both the founder of the Turkish Republic and its current president were depicted as “enemies,” leading Turkey to withdraw its troops from the exercise, Moore called the episode "disgraceful".

Mentioning the quick apologies of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the Norwegians, he added, "It is important to note that this was the act of one or two individuals."

Moore also dismissed claims of Turkey drifting away from NATO, stressing that Turkey's decision to buy Russian S-400 air-defense systems is a "sovereign right." 

Turco-British relations

Moore, whose three-year-plus tenure in Turkey is drawing to a close, said he was "a bit sad" about leaving Turkey, saying, "A bit of my heart is in this country."

He touted the longstanding ties between London and Ankara, saying: "Turkey will be an essential partner for my country, the U.K."

On the deadly July 2016 defeated coup orchestrated by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen, which left 250 people martyred and some 2,200 injured, he said the U.K. was among the very first countries to condemn the incident.

"We also followed up that solidarity at the time by sending our foreign minister to Turkey," he said.

He further said cooperation between Turkey and the U.K. against Daesh is "vital" and "deeply appreciated".