Initial Washington statement over Gara killings was 'foolish’ – ex-U.S. envoy to Syria

The U.S. State Department’s initial remarks regarding the killings of 13 Turkish citizens in northern Iraq, which questioned the involvement of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK), was “foolish,” James Jeffrey, former U.S. envoy to Syria told Turkish news site T24 on Saturday.

“The statement neither condemned Turkey, nor backed the Kurdistan Workers' Party,” said Jeffrey, attributing the use of the word "if" in the statement issued last weekend to the inexperience of the new administration.

“If reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organization, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” Ned Price, the spokesperson of the U.S. State Department said in a statement issued on Feb.14.

Fortunately, the State Department was quick to fix the mistake, Jeffrey added.

In his response to a question regarding a new possible Turkish operation into neighbouring Syria, Jeffrey said that the United States would react with extraordinary force.

“I think this would be the most foolish mistake Turkey could ever make,” he said.

In his statements, Jeffrey also evaluated the relationship between the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria.

SDF is backboned with the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, a force Turkey views as an offshoot of the outlawed PKK, which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984. The PKK is recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

The United States is not trying to create a power against Turkey in the region, by cooperating with the SDF, Jeffrey said.

According to Jeffrey, Washington has two main goals over Syria; to make sure that ISIS is not coming back and to prevent the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russia’s over Syria.

“We accept that the SDF is a subsidiary of the PKK, but in order to maintain our presence in northeastern Syria, we need to be in a relationship with the SDF,” he said.

In regard of the U.S.-Turkey relations, Jeffrey said that he is hopeful.

“I believe that the new U.S. administration will get closer to Turkey, but for a beginning, the S-400 issue should be resolved,” he said.

Washington and Ankara remain at loggerheads over Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 missiles from Russia, which U.S. officials say is incompatible with NATO membership.

Turkey took delivery of the missiles in 2019, prompting the United States to remove it from the next-generation F-35 fighter jet programme. And in December, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defence industry.