Turkey says US support for Syrian Kurdish YPG a “big mistake”

Members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), part of the of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), gather in the town of Shadadi. (File/Delil Soulieman/AFP)
Updated 18 November 2018
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Turkey says US support for Syrian Kurdish YPG a “big mistake”

  • Turkey has been infuriated with Washington’s support for the YPG
  • US-Turkey ties have been strained over issues including US policy in Syria

ANKARA: The United States’ support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia is a “big mistake,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said late on Saturday, adding that the issue had strained ties between the NATO allies.
Turkey has been infuriated with Washington’s support for the YPG, which it views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.
US-Turkey ties have been strained over issues including US policy in Syria, the case of an American pastor in Turkey, and Turkey’s demands for the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a 2016 failed coup.
Cavusoglu, who is in the United States on an official visit, said tensions between Ankara and Washington stemmed from US support for the YPG and the issue of Gulen, against whom he said the FBI had launched an investigation.
“Despite knowing and acknowledging that (the YPG) is the same organization (as the PKK), seeing this cooperation as necessary is really a big mistake,” Cavusoglu said, adding that he would discuss bilateral relations with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.
On Sunday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said he had told US Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford that Turkey expected the United States to stop its support for the YPG as soon as possible, according to the state-owned Anadolu news agency.
“We reiterated our warnings and stated that we expected our US counterparts to take the necessary measures and end their relationship with the YPG, which is no different than the PKK, as soon as possible,” Akar was quoted as saying.
“We reminded them that the United States, our ally and strategic partner here (Syria), and US soldiers cooperating with such an organization (YPG) cannot be acceptable in any way,” he said.
Tensions between the NATO allies have eased slightly in the last month following pastor Andrew Brunson’s release and the beginning of joint patrols in Syria’s Manbij as part of a roadmap agreed by the two countries in June.
The two countries last month also lifted mutual sanctions against top officials, imposed in response to Brunson’s detention and arrest.
Earlier this month, Washington pledged millions of dollars to help capture three top PKK militants in a move that Turkey welcomed, but said was late and insufficient.
Since the attempted putsch, Turkey has jailed 77,000 people as they face trial, suspending or dismissing some 150,000 civil servants and military personnel over alleged links to Gulen.
“On both issues, we are not only a hundred percent, but a thousand percent right,” Cavusoglu said.


Israel says located second ‘Hezbollah’ tunnel from Lebanon

UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicles patrol along the border with Israel near the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila on Dec. 6. (AFP)
Updated 30 min 23 sec ago
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Israel says located second ‘Hezbollah’ tunnel from Lebanon

  • The tunnel crosses into Israel, like the first tunnel it is not yet operational, said Israel

JERUSALEM: Israel’s army said on Saturday it had located another tunnel crossing into its territory from Lebanon, the second such find since launching an operation to expose and destroy alleged Hezbollah “attack tunnels.”

“The IDF has located an additional Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnel,” spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said, refusing to give details on its precise location or dimensions.

“The tunnel crosses into Israel, like the first tunnel it is not yet operational and does not pose an imminent threat to Israeli communities,” he said in a briefing with journalists.

On Tuesday, the army launched an operation dubbed “Northern Shield” to destroy tunnels it said were dug under the border by the militant group Hezbollah, sharing images of one found near the Israeli town of Metula.

Conricus said on Saturday that the army had placed explosives in the newly exposed tunnel to prevent its use as a means to infiltrate Israel, but had not yet destroyed it. He said the Israeli military had issued warnings in Arabic to residents of southern Lebanon to stay away.

Following the army’s announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the operation to track the tunnels “is in its beginning.”

“We’ll continue to act till its completion,” he said in a statement.

Conricus said the military was aware of a third tunnel leading from south Lebanon into Israel.

Despite not having its exact location, he said Israel asked UNIFIL, the UN mission monitoring the border region, to “take action and block the tunnel on the Lebanese side.”

The announcement of the new find came after Israeli soldiers on Saturday opened fire at what they perceived to be three “Hezbollah activists” approaching the border near Yiftah, south of Metula, where the army was carrying out engineering work.

Conricus said the army believed the three individuals intended to take sensors the Israeli soldiers had placed in the ground as part of their efforts to uncover tunnels.

Lebanon’s official NNA news agency said Israeli forces fired shots in the air east of the village of Mays Al-Jabal after they had been surprised because of heavy fog by a routine Lebanese army patrol.

Also Saturday, the Kremlin said Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces are fighting on the same side as Hezbollah in Syria, to tell him about the tunnel operation.

Putin “stressed the need to ensure stability along the line separating Israel and Lebanon,” the Russian Embassy in Israel said.

Netanyahu’s office said he reiterated in the call “Israel’s policy to prevent the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to act against Iranian and Hezbollah aggression.” 

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and deliveries of advanced arms to Hezbollah.

However, a friendly fire incident in Syria in September that led to the downing of a Russian plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli strike has complicated Israeli operations.

Iran-backed Hezbollah is the only group in Lebanon not to have disarmed after the country’s 1975-1990 civil war. Israel fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006 that was halted by a truce.