President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 11 said “no one should dare” to establish a new state in northern Syria, warning that any such effort would be “useless.”
“Those who hope to set up a terror passage in northern Syria right now … those areas used to be included [in Turkey’s] national pact borders [also known as Misak-i-Milli],” Erdoğan said, addressing a meeting of neighborhood heads (muhtars) at his presidential palace in Ankara.
“No one should dare to establish a new state there. They will pay the price for it, if needs be. We are fully prepared,” he said.
In response to the U.S.’s arming of the Syrian Kurdiah People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group associated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in northern Syria, Erdoğan said a “strategic partner should not act in this way.”
Turkey on Jan. 10 summoned the charge d’affairs of the United States Embassy in Ankara, Philip Kosnett, over reports that U.S. troops had started training the YPG in northern Syria, a development that could strain already fragile relations between the two allies.
Turkey’s move came a day after news broke that U.S. troops had begun to provide military training to some 400 YPG militants in a bid to create a new force to guard the Turkey-Syria border, Turkish diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Turkey has long been condemning the U.S. for allying with the YPG, a group Ankara considers a terror organization because of its links with the PKK, in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Ankara believes Washington is continuing to provide heavy weapons to the YPG even though the fight against ISIL is nearing an end. It has been calling on Washington to cut ties and start taking back weapons given to the group.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman confirmed the meeting occurred but said “beyond that we aren’t going to read out any details of the conversation.”
In a telephone conversation with President Erdoğan late November, U.S. President Donald Trump assured the Turkish government that he would instruct the Pentagon to stop delivering weapons to the group.
There are, however, reports that the U.S.-YPG partnership remains active, as the U.S. helps the YPG to form a new force to control the Turkish-Syrian border.
One leader from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – the U.S.-backed Syrian group largely controlled and manned by the YPG – has confirmed their intent to form their own army within the country.
“We are rebuilding our own army to deal with the threat from those who would invade the cities we liberated alongside the coalition,” Abdul Qader Effedili said, according to British daily The Times.
Effedili said Turkey, Iran, and the regime forces would be happy to take back SDF-controlled areas.
The U.S. CENTCOM Commander Gen. Joseph Votel announced on Dec. 22, 2017 that they would establish border protection forces in Syria, which he said would help prevent the resurgence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
A group of around 400 SDF fighters were reportedly trained by the U.S. through the Pentagon and the CIA near eastern Aleppo’s Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates River and in the southern Hasakah province.