Turkey says told US, Russia before strikes on Kurd militia

AFP , Wednesday 26 Apr 2017

Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdish police, known as the Asayish, visit the site of Turkish airstrikes near northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik, known as al-Malikiyah in Arabic, on April 25, 2017. (AFP PHOTO)

Turkey informed the United States and Russia before launching strikes against Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, the Turkish foreign minister said Wednesday, after Washington angrily accused Ankara of lacklustre coordination.

Turkish war planes carried out strikes on Kurdish militia forces in Syria on Tuesday and also hit Kurdish forces in neighbouring Iraq in what Ankara described as "terrorist havens".

The strikes killed more than two dozen Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to sources on the ground, while the Turkish army claimed 70 militants were killed.

But the US State Department said it was "deeply concerned" the strikes were conducted "without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition" against the Islamic State group.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "Two hours before this operation, we shared information with the US and Russia that we would undertake an operation" in the region.

He said Ankara had told Washington in the "last few weeks" that it would undertake military operations but did not give further detail.

"Turkey acts transparently on all issues. We have no secret agenda... We respect Syria and Iraq's territorial integrity," he told reporters in Uzbekistan.

Cavusoglu said Ankara had "a legitimate right with these interventions" because of the threats to Turkey from these areas and urged its allies to support the efforts.

"There are terrorists that enter Turkey via different paths," he said.

Turkey says fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria are linked to Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) separatists inside Turkey, who have waged an insurgency since 1984 that has killed over 40,000 people.

But Washington sees the YPG as essential in the fight against the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria.

The militia has captured chunks of territory in northern Syria but Ankara has repeatedly said it will not allow a "terror corridor" on its border.

Cavusoglu claimed that the US, whose commandos are working with local Kurdish forces in Syria, was fully aware the fighters are linked to the PKK.

The PKK is listed as a "terrorist group" by the US, the European Union and Turkey, but only Turkey sees the YPG as a terror outfit.

Washington is hoping the SDF, a Syrian Arab-Kurdish alliance dominated by the YPG, will push into the IS bastion of Raqa in Syria, but is wary of upsetting Turkey, a key NATO ally.

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