U.S. has "secret embargo" on Turkey - Turkish PM

The United States has carried out a series of hostile actions against Turkey that includes a “secret embargo”, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told BBC Turkish in an interview on Wednesday.

The interview comes day before U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s planned visit to Turkey during a period of high tensions over Turkey’s military incursion into Syria that has raised the possibility of a military confrontation between the two allies.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 against Kurdish fighters from the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin, an area of northwest Syria near the Turkish border.

“We announced the aims of this operation very clearly to the world,” said Yıldırım in the interview. “Our objective is to put an end to the rocket and mortar attacks carried out on our country from Afrin.”

Turkey considers the YPG to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has been in conflict with the Turkish armed forces for decades, and is classified as a terrorist organisation by both the United States and Turkey. The United States, however, sees the YPG as an indispensable part of the coalition to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

“We are both part of NATO. We are strategic partners, allies. They have military bases in our country; we have been working together for years. And in spite of all that, America is walking hand in hand with terrorists,” said Yıldırım.

The presence of U.S. troops providing support to the YPG forces in Manbij, east of Afrin, has sparked the most intense disagreement between the allies, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s demand that the troops withdraw before Turkish forces invade Manbij flatly refused by U.S. generals.

“Keeping the YPG in Manbij is a hostile action against Turkey,” said PM Yıldırım, adding that their presence would necessitate action from the Turkish side.

Yıldırım brought up a list of further Turkish grievances with the United States, including the refusal to extradite Turkish Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey blames for the failed July 206 coup attempt, and a reticence to provide Turkey with weapons that he described as a “secret embargo”.

“Look at the meager guns that were provided to the (Turkish) police,” he said. “And they had to go through congress just for those. But I didn’t see them asking congress when it came to airlifting tanks to the YPG.”