Turkish defence minister criticizes U.S. for supplying missiles to PKK

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar issued a sideswipe criticism of U.S. support for Syria’s Kurdish militants during a visit with Turkish troops, Kurdish news outlet Rudaw reported on Monday. 

Akar, accompanied by Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler and Air Force Commander Gen. Hasan Küçükakyüz, conducted an inspection at Combat Air Force Command in the northwestern province of Eskişehir, where he delivered a speech on recent combat operations in Iraq. 

The minister praised the assembled forces for continuing to conduct operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq despite “difficult conditions”. Akar also delivered a thinly veiled swipe at the United States and its support for Kurdish militants.

“Unfortunately, some countries that we know as friends gave missiles to the PKK. Therefore, each of them is a great danger, a great risk for us,” Akar said. 

The United States and Turkey recognise the PKK as a terrorist organisation, but Washington has allied itself with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in neighbouring Syria. Ankara has vigorously opposed this policy because of the close connections between the YPG and PKK, which make support for one the same as the other. 

Recently, Turkey launched new operations against the PKK in Iraq, where the group has long been headquartered. On April 30, the Turkish interior ministry announced plans to set up a new base in Metina in northern Iraq. This followed previous operations launched against the PKK on April 24.
Turkey currently maintains 10 bases inside Iraq and has relied on cross-border raids, drone and air strikes against PKK targets. Arzu Yılmaz, a Middle East scholar and visiting fellow at Hamburg University, reckons that there are more than 5,000 Turkish troops currently deployed in northern Iraq and in Bashiqa, an area under Iraqi central government control lying east of Mosul.

These operations have been slammed by Iraq as disrespecting its sovereignty while Iraqi militants aligned with Iran have promised in the past to resist further Turkish incursions.