Turkey has called for the removal of the US diplomat coordinating an international coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Syria and Iraq, accusing him of backing Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Ankara regards the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) group, which has been fighting a decades-old armed campaign in southeast Turkey and is considered a “terrorist organisation” by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Yet the US views the YPG, a central part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as its main ally in the battle on the ground against ISIL. Earlier in May, US President Donald Trump pledged to arm the group ahead of a planned attack on Raqqa, ISIL’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said on Thursday he wanted Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the anti-ISIL coalition, removed from his post.
“McGurk is definitely giving support to PKK and YPG. It would be useful if this person was replaced,” Cavusoglu told the private NTV television.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Geneva where a new round of United Nations-backed Syria talks is currently under way, said Cavusoglu’s comments were “definitely significant”.
He added, however, that “it was still early to call this a diplomatic rupture” as it was still unclear what Ankara’s next moves would be.