Ankara is gravely concerned by photos of U.S. soldiers attending the funerals of Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants, who it says are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in the wake of Turkish air strikes on the two groups, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
“We may come [to strike the YPG] overnight, all of a sudden without warning,” Erdoğan told reporters at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport before leaving for a two-day visit to India.
“We are seriously concerned to see U.S. flags in a convoy that has YPG rags on it. We will mention these issues to President [Donald Trump] during our visit to the United States on May 16,” he added.
Erdoğan was asked about photos said to show U.S. soldiers patrolling along the Turkish border and attending the funerals of the YPG militants apparently killed in Turkish air strikes.
“If we are against global terrorism, then we need to tell them [U.S.] about these issues. If we do not work together against terrorism, then tomorrow it will strike at another ally,” he added.
Erdoğan vowed that Turkey will continue operations against the PKK and the YPG, similar to strikes earlier this week on Mt. Sinjar in northern Iraq and Syria’s Mt. Karaçok.
Forty militants were killed at Iraq’s Mt. Sinjar and another 49 at Syria’s Mt. Karacok in April 25 airstrikes by Turkish forces against the PKK, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and its armed wing the YPG.
The Turkish military said the strikes, which local governments as well as the U.S. and Russia were notified about in advance, were intended to prevent the PKK from sending terrorists, arms, ammunition, and explosives to Turkey.
The military killed 14 members of the PKK in air strikes in northern Iraq on April 29, it said in a statement. Six militants were killed around the area of Sinat-Haftan and eight in the countryside around Adiyaman in two separate air strikes, the military stated.
U.S. troops have been seen patrolling the tense border since the Turkish strikes.
“We will be forced to continue [our offensives]. We won’t provide a date and time for when we’ll come. But they will know that the Turkish military can come at any moment,” Erdoğan said.
Tensions rose on April 29 along the Turkish-Syrian border as Ankara also moved armored vehicles to the region.
Media reports said the convoy was heading to southeastern Şanlırufa province from Kilis in the west. The base in the area is 50 kilometers from Syria’s Tal Abyad, a town controlled by the PYD.
More U.S. troops were seen on April in armored vehicles in Syria in the YPG-controlled areas. PYD officials describe the U.S. troop movement as “buffer” between them and Turkey.
The YPG issue has been a source of tension between Ankara and Washington for a long time. Instead of working with the PYD, Turkey is pressing the U.S. to let its army join the campaign for Raqqa, ISIL’s self-proclaimed capital.
Erdoğan is due in Washington on May 16 for his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Let us, the U.S., all these coalition powers, and Turkey, join hands to turn Raqqa into Daesh’s grave,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL, saying that Turkey is at present leading the “most effective campaign against ISIL.”
The YPG forms the backbone of the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.