While a controversial debate about the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) rages on both at an international and domestic level, the United States has clarified their position in regards to the PYDs designation as a terrorist organization.
Anger in Ankara followed this statement, with Al Jazeera reporting today that the Turkish Foreign Ministry has summoned US Ambassador John Bass over their ongoing support for the PYD.
The US State Department spokesperson John Kirby declared on Monday that it does not view the PYD as a terrorist organization, nor their armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), maintaining their support for these organizations in the fight against ISIS.
This statement came as an apparent answer to Turkish President Erdoğan’s question about partnership; “am I your partner or the terrorists in Kobane?” the US clarified that: “We understand Turkey’s concerns about the PYD. But the PYD is one of the most successful forces in the fight against ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria]. We don’t consider them a terrorist organization and will keep supporting them”.
The US Vice President Joe Biden had already signaled the recognition of the PYD as a legitimate actor during his visit to Turkey last month. Biden stressed the separation of the PKK from their sister organization, the PYD. Biden visited Kobane in order to meet with the PYD to discuss ongoing operations in Mosul.
Turkish President Erdoğan was critical of this meeting, and later, of the US delegations’ meeting on Tuesday with Polat Can, one of the founding members of the YPG. Kirby stated that this meeting was coincidental, “[US Special Delegate Brett McGurk] meeting this person had not been planned ahead, he was representing Kurdish fighters there”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, following the US declaration of non-recognition, questioned and criticized this move; stating that “So IS is bad because they are radical, but the PYD and PKK are better because they are Marxist-Leninist. According to them, they are secular. Can you believe this thinking? If one is a terrorist organization, so is the other. You cant say one is better than the other… When all the surrounding countries see PYD as a terrorist organization, it is irrational for other countries to see the PYD as anything else.”
Çavuşoğlu has also stated that; “America needs to decide, does it choose us as their partners in fighting IS or does it choose the region’s terrorist organizations?” According US spokesman John Kirby however the decision has been made and it appears clear that Turkish pressure will not alter their PYD policy.
Turkey has previously and repeatedly claimed that US weapon aid is passing to PKK, through the PYD and YPG. US officials have not accepted such accusations, instead asserting that Russia remains the main weapon supplier for the PYD.
At the international level, Russia has also signaled their support for the PYD to attend Geneva talks, indicating their recognition of the PYD as a legitimate actor, further provoking Ankara.