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Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was “unacceptable” that US troops had been seen in images taken by an AFP photographer wearing insignia of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara regards the YPG as a terror group, accusing it of carrying out attacks inside Turkey and being the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state for more than three decades.
However, Washington sees the YPG as one of the most effective fighting forces against Islamic State (IS) jihadists inside Syria.
The issue has caused tensions between the two NATO allies for months.
“We advise them (US troops) to wear badges of Daesh (IS) or (Al-Qaeda affiliate) Al-Nusra when they go to other parts of Syria and badges of Boko Haram when they go to Africa,” Cavusoglu said with angry sarcasm.
“If they don’t see these (groups) as the same as the YPG, then this is double standards, hypocrisy,” he said at a news conference at a meeting on Least Developed Countries in the southern resort of Antalya.
The AFP photographer saw US forces on the ground in northern Syria helping the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a major offensive against IS in its stronghold of Raqa province.
Several US commandos were also photographed wearing the military insignia of the YPG, which make up the bulk of the SDF.
“It is unacceptable for the soldiers of the United States—our ally which is very assertive in the fight against terror—to use or wear the badges of a terror organisation,” Cavusoglu said.
The minister decried what he said was the approach of “a terrorist organisation I can use and a terrorist organisation I cannot.”
“You wear the insignia of a terrorist organisation on your shoulder, put up its flag in your capital. Of course we will not succeed in the fight against terrorism through this understanding as it is today,” he said.
The United States, like the European Union, classifies the PKK as a terror group. But it had so far resisted intensive lobbying from Turkey to also outlaw the YPG and stop working with the group in Syria.
Cavusoglu insisted that in private talks with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry the United States had said the YPG “are not reliable” and vowed Washington would “stand by Turkey in the fight against terrorism.”
“And then they wear the badges of the terrorist organisation responsible for the last two attacks in Ankara,” he complained.
Turkey blamed the YPG for attacks in the capital this year that killed dozens, even though they were claimed by a PKK splinter group the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK).
Ankara has repeatedly said it makes no distinction between “terror” organisations, be it IS, the PKK or the YPG.
“It is unacceptable to make distinctions between terrorist organisations. We are against all terrorist organisations,” he said.