In their first face to face meeting, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan expressed disdain over the Trump administration's recent decision to arm the Kurdish YPG against the Islamic State group.
The Trump administration recently decided to sell arms to the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, known as YPG, who are looking to wage a campaign to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State group.
The Pentagon emphasized that Washington viewed arming the leftist Kurdish forces "as necessary to ensure a clear victory" in Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital in Syria, according to Reuters.
The Syrian YPG are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, leftist militias who have faced a brutal counterinsurgency campaign waged by the Turkish state for over three decades. Ankara authorities consider the group to be a terrorist threat. The move to sell arms was expected to strain relations between the U.S. and its NATO ally Turkey.
For several years the YPG have been among the most effective groups taking territory from ISIS, and will be at the forefront of any operation to retake Raqqa.
In spite of their support from the U.S., the YPG along with their Turkish ally the PKK profess a leftist revolutionary ideology inspired by Abdullah Ocalan, who is currently in Turkish prison. They seek to establish the independent Kurdish state of Rojava, independent of both Turkey and Syria. Ocalan's concept of democratic centralism merges Kurdish nationalism with egalitarian, socialist principles.
Kurdish Rojava: Martyrs Don't Die
Their revolutionary ideology does not, however, prevent them from welcoming material support from the U.S. “In the beginning, American support was secret,” Alan Hassan, a Kurd in northeastern Syria's Qamishli, told The New York Times. “Now it is public. The relationship has changed from undeclared to declared.”
The move to formalize and expand U.S. arming of the Kurdish militias has been viewed as a potential crossroads for the future of U.S.-Turkish relations.
"We are either strategic allies and decide together, or we are not, and then we have to go our separate ways,” Erdogan said to reporters while boarding the flight to Washington.
In spite of the condemnation of the U.S.'s move to arm the YPG, President Erdogan expressed hope for a “new era” of cooperation between the United States and Turkey in regards to policy in Syria and Iraq.
The visibly tense and brief press conference concluded without a question and answer session with attending press.