Turkish President Erdoğan accuses US of backing Kurdish militants
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday sharply condemned the State Department and accused it of “clearly” supporting and standing behind Kurdish forces after the agency released a statement condemning the killing of more than a dozen Turkish civilians.
In the statement, the State Department did not directly blame the PKK, a Kurdish militant group designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, saying that the U.S. “deplores the death of Turkish citizens in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq” while adding that “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.”
Reuters reported that the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, was summoned to Ankara, while Erdoğan criticized the State Department’s remarks in a fiery speech.
“Now there is a statement made by the United States. It’s a joke. Were you not supposed to stand against the PKK, the YPG? You clearly support them and stand behind them,” Erdoğan said in a speech delivered in the city of Rize, according to the news service.
State Department officials declined to comment to The Hill. In a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. holds the PKK responsible for the deaths of the 13 civilians in Iraqi Kurdistan and again called on Ankara not to complete the construction of Russian-designed missile defenses in the country, according to a State Department readout.
“The Secretary expressed condolences for the deaths of Turkish hostages in northern Iraq and affirmed our view that PKK terrorists bear responsibility,” said Ned Price, a State Department spokesman.
The U.S. and Turkey have had a strained relationship compared to other NATO members in recent years, exacerbated by Turkey’s opposition to the Kurdish militant groups operating in Syria including some that received U.S. support during the war against the Islamic State in the region.
Outgoing President Trump imposed sanctions on the country in December over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system, after the Trump administration faced criticism for delaying sanctions on Turkey for months.
Updated at 1:05 p.m.