The United States is “two-faced” for refusing to call the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia terrorists, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Friday, reflecting Ankara’s growing irritation at Washington’s backing of the group.
Mevlut Cavusoglu also said it was ‘unacceptable’ for US soldiers to wear YPG emblems, after photos emerged purportedly showing US special forces wearing YPG emblems on their shoulders.
NATO member Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency for autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish south-east. Washington considers the PKK terrorists but backs the Syrian Kurdish militia in the fight against Islamic State.
The YPG is the most powerful element of the US-backed Syrian militia alliance involved in an offensive near the Islamic State’s de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa. Aided by US-led air strikes, the YPG has driven Islamic State from wide areas of northern Syria over the last year.
“If they say ‘We don’t see the YPG and these terrorist groups as the same’, my answer is, that is a double standard and two-faced,” Cavusoglu said at a UN summit in Turkey’s Antalya resort.
“It is unacceptable for US soldiers to use the insignia of the YPG, a terrorist group,” he said.
Ankara had raised the issue with the State Department.
Asked at a briefing on Thursday if it was appropriate to wear such insignia, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook declined to comment on the photos but said that when special forces operate in some areas they do what they can to blend in with the community to enhance their own security.
The United States does not consider the YPG to be a terrorist group.