Erdogan slams Kurdish rebels, admonishes West on Syria

WASHINGTON, March 31 (KUNA) — In a highly defensive speech in Washington Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan highlighted his country’s sheltering of Syrian refugees while accusing Europe of turning them away, and slammed Syrian Kurdish fighters supported by the US as “terrorists,” equating them with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“For us, the YPG and PYD are equal to the PKK,” Erdogan told a crowd at the Brookings think tank.
While the PKK is already considered a terrorist group by the US, the Obama Administration’s best hope at defeating the so-called Islamic State group in northern Syria lies with the YPG – an issue that has caused a rift in US-Turkey relations in recent months, as Turkish aircraft bomb Kurdish rebels across their border.
Erdogan criticized the US for making a distinction between the two groups, and insisted that Turkey is not compromising human rights or the rule of law in its assault on the YPG.
The Turkish president was also defiant in the face of the latest bombing in Turkey, this time in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Thursday, which killed 7 members of the security force.
“I denounce this,” he said. “We can’t tolerate this anymore.” He continued: “The determination of our security forces will, God willing, put an end” to these attacks, which “will never keep us from fighting terrorists.” Despite these challenges, Erdogan affirmed, Turkey has continued to play host to nearly three million Syrian refugees, and some 300,000 Iraqi refugees. He then accused European coast guard personnel of deliberately puncturing boats carrying refugees, and leaving them to die at sea.
Many are “closing their gates” to refugees, he added, while the Turkish coast guard has saved “100,000 lives at sea.” On the current US election season, Erdogan affirmed that he is ready to work with the next US president whoever he or she may be, “based on common interests” between the two nations.
“If used effectively, (the US-Turkey relationship) can produce very positive results,” he added, and played down suggestions that ties are not as strong as they used to be.
Erdogan is in the US capital to participate in the fourth Nuclear Security Summit, which officially opens on Friday.
Earlier on Thursday, he met with Vice President Joe Biden, and is expected to cross paths with President Barack Obama at the summit, though no formal meeting between them has been planned, the White House told reporters.
On Saturday, Erdogan will travel to Lanham, Maryland to attend the opening of the Diyanet Center of America, which is being touted as one of the largest mosque grounds in the Western world. (end) ys.hb