Turkish FM says Ankara informed US, Russia about airstrikes targeting Kurdish militia

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TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN - APRIL 26: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov (R) shake hands after signing a cooperation agreement in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on April 26, 2017. AFP

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday that Ankara informed the US and Russia hours before Turkish airstrikes targeted positions occupied by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and Iraq.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday during a trip to Uzbekistan, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey informed the US directly that Ankara would conduct the operation and requested that they move their forces to the south.

As per our agreement we informed the US and Russia two hours before the operation. We shared this information with the coalition’s coordination headquarters in Qatar. In the past few weeks we have told our US allies countless times through military and diplomatic channels that we would conduct an operation. We do not have a secret agenda. There is a threat to us from there, and we are engaged in legitimate self-defense,” he said.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Tuesday that the US has expressed concerns with the government of Turkey directly regarding the airstrikes on YPG militia.

We are very concerned – deeply concerned – that Turkey conducted airstrikes earlier today in northern Syria, as well as northern Iraq, without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat ISIS. And we’ve expressed those concerns to the government of Turkey directly. These airstrikes were not approved by the coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces in the fight against ISIS that includes members of the Kurdish peshmerga. I would also note that the concerns – or rather note the concerns expressed by the government of Iraq and reaffirm our view that military action in Iraq should respect Iraqi sovereignty,” Toner said.

After more than a dozen Turkish airstrikes hit targets in northeast Syria and north Iraq on Tuesday morning, 20 militants from YPG and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), as well as two civilians, died in the Mount Karachok area of northeastern Syria, local media reported.

During concurrent airstrikes on the Shingal region in northern Iraq on Tuesday, five peshmerga, a Yazidi member of the Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) and a civilian died.

Turkey considers the YPG, YPJ and YBS to be terrorist groups due to their affiliation with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The YPG is the leading force in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in its fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS or the Islamic State.

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