Clarifying Turkey’s stance in future operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as part of US-led coalition forces, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Friday that Turkey will not take part in the Raqqa campaign if Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are involved.
“We have a clear stance there. We can be with you [the US.] against Daesh (Arabic acronym for ISIL) in the Raqqa operation, but if elements such as the PYD (Kurdish Democratic Union Party)/YPG (People’s Defense Units), which we have identified as terrorist groups, join the operation, we will not be there,” he said.
Turkey identifies the PYD/YPG as a terrorist due to their links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the EU and the US. However, the US backs the SDF, which consists mainly of YPG militia, against ISIL in Syria.
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US commander in Iraq, said on Wednesday that the SDF was the only force capable of isolating Raqqa any time soon and insisted that the YPG would be involved in the Raqqa campaign.
Townsend, however, acknowledged Ankara’s opposition and said the US and Turkey were holding talks on the issue. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter also said he was looking for ways for Turkey to take part in the Raqqa operation and praised its intervention in Syria for taking territory from ISIL.