Updated January 14
Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin heavily criticised the United States and the Coalition fighting Islamic State, saying that the Border Security Force being trained in Syria is “legitimizing the PKK.”
“Turkey reserves its right to respond to the legitimate target of terror organizations in any way, time and place,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Ibrahim Kalin as saying in a written statement on Sunday, January 14.
Turkey views the predominantly Kurdish YPG and its linked PYD political party as extensions of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency mainly in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish southwest. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, among others, but the YPG is not so designated by the U.S. or E.U.
Anadolu reported that Kalin noted that the Coalition is working with the Syrian Democratic Forces to set up and train a Syrian Border Protection Force, a development first reported by The Defense Post.
The Coalition’s Colonel Thomas F. Veale told The Defense Post on Saturday that the new force would include 15,000 redeployed SDF members as part of a “final force size of approximately 30,000.” The BSF will be stationed along the Euphrates River Valley – marking the western edge of the territory within Syria currently controlled by SDF – and the Iraqi and Turkish borders, Veale said.
“The United States of America takes worrisome steps towards legitimizing the PKK terrorist group’s Syrian offshoot, PYD-YPG under the pretense of ‘fight against Daesh’,” Kalin said. According to Anadolu, he added that these steps aimed to establish a permanent place for the PYD and YPG in the region.
“This situation is totally unacceptable,” he said.
“Turkey will continue its resolute fight against all kinds of terrorist organizations within and outside its borders – regardless of whatever name or methods those groups use – as per the statements of Mr. President [Erdogan],” Kalin concluded.
Update Turkey’s ministry of foreign affairs also slammed the move. The United States’ “unacceptable plan to form YPG-led SDF border force threatens Turkey’s national security and Syria’s territorial integrity,” the ministry said in a statement. “We condemn [the U.S.] insistence on this erroneous step.”
The statement said that Coalition member Turkey was not consulted on the establishment of the BSF was established, and that Turkey does not know which Coalition members approved the decision.
“To attribute such a unilateral step to the whole Coalition is an extremely wrong move that could harm the fight against Daesh,” the statement said.
On Saturday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly signalled an imminent military operations in Syria in the city of Manbij and the majority Kurdish canton of Efrin if the predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) do not withdraw, saying “they will see what we’ll do in about a week.”
Anadolu reported Turkish military reinforcements moving to the Syria border overnight on Saturday.
Erdogan reiterated his remarks on Sunday, saying, “In the coming days, God willing, we will continue with Afrin [operation] – that we started first with Euphrates Shield Operation -– to purge terrorism from our southern borders.”
“We expect from our allies that they behave in accordance with the spirit of our deep-rooted relationship during this process,” Erdogan said, adding “We expect them to support Turkey’s legitimate efforts.”