Kurdish YPG in Syria to be top of agenda in Erdoğan-Trump meeting - Daily Sabah

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will tell U.S. President Donald Trump that Ankara will oppose any attempt to differentiate Kurdish armed groups in Turkey and Syria during a bilateral meeting this weekend, Daily Sabah said on Friday.

Erdoğan and Trump are expected to meet for the first time on the sidelines of the Armistice Day commemorations in Paris, after a diplomatic spat between two countries over the two year detention of an American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was released by a Turkish court on Oct. 12. 

Turkey sees the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria as an extension of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group that has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organisation by both Turkey and the United States.

The United States sees the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its armed units, the YPG, as key allies in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

Ankara has urged Washington repeatedly to cut support to YPG, which it sees as a threat to its national security. 

Ankara last week announced that it would launch a large scale operation east of River Euphrates, a region controlled by U.S. backed SDF, and started shelling YPG positions.

Washington called both parties to de-escalate the situation, warning that American personnel may be present in areas shelled by Turkish Armed Forces.

“Our position against the PKK is clear. Contrary to the PKK, we do not define the YPG as a terrorist organisation. We have never done that,” Washington's Syria envoy James Jeffrey said this week, adding that the fight against ISIS was Washington’s top priority in Syria. 

The U.S. State Department announced this week that it would be offering millions of dollars in rewards for information leading the identification or location of three senior PKK leaders.

"In his meeting with Trump, Erdoğan may first welcome the recent step of the U.S. to put bounties on senior PKK leaders. Yet, he will also clearly underline that Turkey will oppose any attempt by the U.S. to differentiate the PKK from its Syrian affiliate the YPG," Murat Yeşiltaş, director of the Security Studies programme of the Turkish pro-government think tank SETA said.

"The U.S. is one of the key actors in Syria and its aim is to act as hegemonic leader in the region by establishing permanent influence,” Valeria Gionnatta, an academic from the University of the Turkish Aeronautical Association, told the Daily Sabah.

By arming and supporting the YPG in Syria, the United States keeps its stake in the conflict and the region as a whole, Gionnatta said.

The United States and Turkey have already tested the limits of their reciprocal relations and the current situation pushes both countries to move toward a constructive dialogue despite conflicting positions over various issues, according to Gionnatta.

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