Turkey scolds top US general over dinner photos of US solders, YPG militants

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Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (2R) meets with U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford (2L) on the second day of Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Canada on November 17, 2018. AFP PHOTOS

Turkey’s defense minister voiced Ankara’s objection to US soldiers celebrating Veterans Day dinner with People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants in Syria, captured in photographs, during a meeting with the top US general, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

“We reiterated the inappropriateness of the YPG presence here [in northern Syria] as a terrorist [group] which is no different from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] and US soldiers spending time and cooperating with them,” Hulusi Akar told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu new agency following his meeting on Sunday with Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The closed-door, one-hour meeting on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada addressed Nov. 11 photos showing US soldiers stationed in Manbij, situated near the Turkish border in northern Syria, having a Veterans Day dinner with YPG militants.

Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist PKK. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.

Akar said Turkey scolded the US about the “provocative and unacceptable” images of YPG militants having dinner with US soldiers and said he expects this not to be repeated.

Akar also said the US cooperation with the YPG disturbs Turkey and urged the US to cut these ties as soon as possible.

“We also pointed out that giving weapons and ammunition to the terrorist YPG by truck and airplane does not fit with the understanding of [the Turkish-US] alliance,” he said.

Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syria engagement, stated last week that the United States does not see the YPG and PKK as the same entity.

“For us, the PKK is a terrorist organization. We are not of the same opinion on the YPG. We ensure that the YPG operates as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] in a way that does not pose a threat to Turkey,” Jeffrey told journalists via teleconference on Wednesday.

According to a readout from the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs: “The two leaders discussed security and stability in Manbij and the situation in northeast Syria. Gen. Dunford reiterated the U.S. commitment to Turkey’s security. They also discussed their continued counter-terrorism efforts to ensure the lasting defeat of [ISIL].”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has similarly said that the US’s support for the YPG militants is a “big mistake,” adding that the issue had strained ties between the NATO allies.

“Despite knowing and acknowledging that [the YPG] is the same organization [as the PKK], seeing this cooperation as necessary is really a big mistake,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that he would discuss bilateral relations with his US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, on Nov. 20.

Çavuşoğlu’s remarks came during his meeting with Turkish citizens at Ankara’s New York consulate general.

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