One day after the United States criticized ongoing Turkish airstrikes in northeast Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the country of putting Turkey’s national security at risk due to its military actions with Kurdish militant groups in the region, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
“The activities the United States has been carrying out with the extensions of the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] in Syria pose an extraordinary threat to Turkey’s national security,” Erdoğan said on Friday, referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which are considered by Turkey to be extensions of the PKK.
Both SDF and YPG provided crucial assistance to a US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group. Turkey frequently criticizes the US for cooperating with these groups.
The White House said in a statement on Thursday that ongoing Turkish airstrikes in northeast Syria, which Turkey launched in retaliation for a terrorist attack in Ankara by the PKK on Oct. 1, undermines the fight against ISIL, endangers civilians and destabilizes the region in addition to posing “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
Erdoğan, who has been hardening his rhetoric against the US since the downing of a Turkish drone in Syria by US warplanes last week, struck back on Friday, directing similar accusations at the US, a NATO ally.
US F-16 fighter jets on Oct. 5 shot down a drone belonging to Turkey that was deemed a potential threat to American forces in Syria.
Although the downing of the drone initially attracted a mild response from Turkey, Erdoğan, his far-right ally and the leader of a nationalist opposition party in separate statements this week condemned the incident, with Erdoğan vowing retaliation when the time is right.
Erdoğan also talked about the issue on Friday and questioned how a NATO member can shoot down the drone of another member of the alliance.
His remarks came during the closing ceremony of the 4th Turkey – Africa Economic and Business Forum in İstanbul.
“Are we not allies in NATO? The US has downed our UCAV. How can you do something like this? There are security issues between the US and us,” said Erdoğan, vowing out to root out the PKK no matter who is behind it.
The PKK, which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by much of the international community.
Kurdish authorities in Syria accuse Turkey of causing at least 44 civilian deaths and destroying crucial infrastructure in its airstrikes on Syria and deny Turkey’s claims that the perpetrators of the Ankara attack were trained in Syria and entered the country from there.