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Turkey's moves dependent on US decision on YPG funding, warns Erdogan

Tillerson is due in Ankara later this week to discuss strained US-Turkey ties [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 February, 2018

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Turkey's president has warned the US ahead of a visit by its Secretary of State that any future moves depend on whether it will continue funding the YPG Kurdish militia.
Turkey's future moves are dependent on a US decision to continue funding the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a scheduled visit by the US Secretary of State.

US officials have predicted a difficult conversation awaiting Rex Tillerson when he visits Turkey on Thursday and Friday following increased tensions among the two NATO allies, in particular with regards to Syria.

Heather Nauert, the state department's spokesperson, said that Tillerson's trip highlights "just how serious this matter is".

"This is one of the areas of deep, deep concern on the part of the administration and the US government," she said in a briefing on Tuesday. "We certainly don't want to see…violence further escalate."

Relations between the NATO allies have been strained with the US choosing to support the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. Turkey sees the Kurdish militia YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK. The PKK group is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU.

"Our ally's decision to give financial support to the YPG will surely affect the decisions we will take," Erdogan said in a speech to members of his AK party in parliament.

"It will be better for them not to stand with the terrorists they support today. I am calling on the people of the United States – this money is coming out of the budget of the United States, it is coming out of people's pockets."

Turkey on Monday warned the United States that it was time to either make or break ties between the NATO allies that have strained badly over the Turkish military assault in Syria, days ahead of talks with Washington's top diplomat.

Tillerson kicked off a five-nation tour in the Middle East on Sunday and is due in Ankara later this week for talks aimed at finding a way forward as Washington expresses severe alarm over the campaign against Kurdish militia.

Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch in the northern Syrian region of Afrin last month to fight the YPG, which Washington views as a key ally in the battle against the Islamic State group.

Turkey is also angry Washington has failed to extradite Pennsylvania-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who it accuses of ordering the 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking alongside an international donors' conference being held in Kuwait for the reconstruction of Iraq, Tillerson urged countries to focus their efforts on fighting the Islamic State group, warning that Turkey's campaign was "detracting" from the anti-IS efforts.

While giving a nod to Turkey's right to pursue its "counterterrorism efforts" on its border, he maintained that the US would "continue to train local security forces".

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