By Nilay Kar Onum
BRUSSELS (AA) – U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said America never supplied weapons or munitions to the terrorist PYD/YPG/PKK in Afrin, Syria -- the target of a Turkish-led operation in the region -- Turkey’s national defense minister said on Thursday.
“Mr. Mattis said that the U.S. never gave weapons or munitions support to terrorist PYD and YPG elements acting against Turkey in Afrin right now, and the weapons being used there do not belong to them,” Nurettin Canikli told reporters in Brussels about his Wednesday meeting with his U.S. counterpart at NATO headquarters.
During the meeting, Canikli said they shared documents with Mattis showing that the PYD/YPG is an “organic part of the terrorist PKK,” a group recognized as terrorist by the U.S., EU, and Turkey.
The meeting came amid continuing tension between Ankara and Washington over the U.S. allying itself with the PYD/PKK, the Syrian branch of the terrorist PKK, while Turkey is targeting the same terrorist group in its Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria, across Turkey’s border.
The U.S. has called the PYD/PKK a “reliable ally” in its fight against Daesh, against strong protests by Turkey, which has highlighted the PYD/PKK’s continuing terrorist threat to both Syrians and Turkey’s border regions.
Canikli strenuously asked the U.S. to end support for the terrorist PYD/YPG/PKK, also part of the U.S.-supported SDF, he said, telling reporters:
“We demanded that the U.S. end every kind of support for the PYD/YPG and to remove this group from the SDF structure.”
Canikli also said he told Mattis that the PYD/YPG terror group used members of Daesh to fight Turkey during the Turkish-led operation in Afrin, Syria.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.