By Safvan Allahverdi
A key Republican senator in the U.S. said he is “sensitive” to Turkey’s concerns regarding the presence of the terrorist group PKK/YPG in northern Syria, adding that he might visit Turkey to talk with officials about this.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Senator Lindsey Graham said that the U.S. has to strike a “delicate balance” between long-time NATO ally Turkey and the PKK/YPG, who he said helped Washington defeat Daesh.
Graham’s remarks Wednesday came amid continued tension between Ankara and Washington over U.S. support for the terrorist PKK/YPG, also known as the PKK/PYD. The U.S. has allied itself with the PKK/YPG to fight Daesh in Syria, while Turkey has argued that using one terror group to fight another makes no sense.
U.S. officials recently said a planned troop pullout from Syria depends on Turkey not attacking the PKK/YPG, while Turkish officials have pledged an operation against the terrorist group, citing its threat to national security and Syrians east of the Euphrates River.
“I am sensitive to Turkey’s concerns. I’ve seen this for a long time, this is a delicate balance,” Graham told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
“And we don’t want to abandon allies [the PKK/YPG] who were there doing fighting on the ground against a vicious enemy called ISIS,” he added, using another name for Daesh.
“But,” he said, “I am sympathetic to the problem that Turkey has with some elements of the YPG, and my hope is that we can find a way to make sure that Turkey feels assured that our efforts in Syria do not jeopardize the security of Turkey.
“And it’s very important for the United States to not abandon people who have helped them in their causes. So, I may be going to Turkey soon to talk about this.”
Asked about how he plans to reassure Ankara about its concerns, Graham said that was the “64 million dollar question”.
Earlier, at a 2016 Senate hearing, Graham criticized the U.S./YPG alliance, saying: “We are arming people inside of Syria [the YPG] who are aligned with a terrorist group [the PKK], that is the finding of Turkish government.”
He added: “They [Turks] think this is the dumbest idea in the world, and I agree with them.”
The PYD/YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, a terrorist group recognized by Turkey, the U.S., and EU, which in its 30-year terror campaign has taken some 40,000 lives, including women and children.
Turkey rejects any conflation between the PKK/YPG and ethnic Kurds, arguing that in fact the terror group threatens Syria’s Kurds, Turkmens, and Arabs alike.