By Esra Kaymak Avci and Kasim Ileri
WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. opposes the participation of the PKK terrorist group in an upcoming campaign to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul, the State Department said Thursday.
"We clearly view the PKK as a terrorist organization so we would not be supporting them," as part of the Mosul campaign, agency spokesman Mark Toner said during a press briefing.
According to Toner, the U.S. distinguishes the PKK from its Syrian wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and other Kurdish groups in the region.
Although Turkey and the U.S. have the same position on the PKK, they differ about the PYD.
Ankara considers the PYD an extension of the PKK but the U.S. describes the group as a "reliable partner" on the ground in Syria.
When Toner was asked whether the U.S. would continue to support the Mosul campaign if the Iraqi government wanted to include the PKK among its troops, he declined comment.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on Thursday expressed concerns about the PKK taking advantage of the Mosul operation and trying to extend its territory in northern Iraq.
Regarding Turkish troops deployed to Iraq's Bashika Camp that has recently become a source of tension between Ankara and Baghdad, Toner reiterated that all anti-Daesh efforts in Iraq should be done in coordination with the Iraqi government.
Baghdad wants Turkish troops to leave Bashika. But Ankara says Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi personally asked Turkey for help after Daesh took control of Mosul. Turkey responded to the request by sending its own soldiers to Bashika.
Asked about Iran-backed Shiite militia Badr Brigade's threats against Turkish forces in Bashika, Toner urged dialogue between the sides and did not comment any further.
Responding to a question by Anadolu Agency about whether Defense Secretary Ash Carter is also concerned about sectarian strife in northern Iraq after Mosul is recaptured from Daesh, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said it is one of the top priorities for Carter.
"It's important to keep the focus on ISIL and that efforts need to be made to try and address concerns about sectarian issues," he said.
He acknowledged that it was sectarian divisions that led to the rise of Daesh in Iraq.
"It's important on the day after that the people of Mosul and the people of Iraq have a peaceful situation of better life to look forward to once ISIL is removed," he added.
Cook said American leadership is talking and sharing sectarian concerns with partners in the region.