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

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.


UN urged to prevent Houthi oil ‘disaster’

Updated 29 min 25 sec ago

UN urged to prevent Houthi oil ‘disaster’

  • The Houthis have refused for more than 5 years to allow international engineers to board the Safer to carry out essential repairs
  • The Houthis have rejected all independent international requests to board the vessel

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government has urged the UN Security Council to intervene to prevent a derelict tanker from leaking more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea.

The FSO Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. The vessel fell into the hands of Iran-backed Houthi militias in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around the port city of Hodeidah.

The Houthis have refused for more than 5 years to allow international engineers to board the Safer to carry out essential repairs, and as the vessel’s condition deteriorates there are fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out.

An oil leak from the Safer’s tanks would be “one of the biggest environmental disasters in the region and the world,” Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadrami told Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s permanent representative at the UN and president of the Security Council.

The Houthis have rejected all independent international requests to board the vessel, including the latest one from the UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths, who demanded access for an international technical team.

Anwar Al-Ameri, head of the government oil company in Hodeidah, said an oil spill from the Safer would be more destructive to the environment than the damage caused by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989. “A looming environmental disaster is awaiting the Red Sea countries if the oil tanker Safer is destroyed,” Al-Ameri said.

Michael Aron, UK ambassador to Yemen, has also warned of a potential catastrophe. “The threat to the environment in the Red Sea is enormous, and will impact on all the countries who share this coastline,” he said.

“We urgently need to allow UN experts to board the craft, assess its condition and take the necessary steps to secure the vessel and prevent the oil from leaking.”

Yemeni activists, politicians and government officials have launched a campaign on social media aimed at focusing attention on the derelict vessel and pressing the international community to act quickly to safe Yemen from disaster.

Mohammed Al-Omada, head of the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms, said the Houthis were using the vessel to blackmail the legitimate government into offering concessions in peace talks brokered by the UN Yemen envoy, and to enable them to sell the vessel’s oil.

“We call on the international community to take swift and urgent measures to prevent this serious environmental catastrophe from happening,” he said.