Germany’s former foreign minister slammed the U.S. administration for a grave strategic mistake in Syria by supporting the PYD/PKK terrorist group, despite legitimate security concerns of its NATO ally Turkey.
“It seems that the U.S. evaluates the current tensions with Turkey as something temporary which can be contained, or it has lost sight of the geo-strategic role of Turkey,” Sigmar Gabriel said in an opinion piece published by daily newspaper Tagesspiegel.
“The first assessment would be a mistake. The second would have disastrous consequences, especially for us Europeans,” he stressed.
The Social Democrat politician, who served as the foreign minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s previous coalition government, has warned that the U.S.’s failure in addressing Turkey’s concerns over PYD/PKK, and growing alienation between the two NATO allies, would serve for the interests of Russia.
“Turkey’s disengagement from the West, from the NATO and ultimately from its orientation towards Europe would mean a new and quite considerable risk for us Europeans,” he said, referring to intensified political dialogue, as well as cooperation between Ankara and Moscow.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear terrorist groups from Afrin in northwestern Syria amid growing threats from the region.
“Turkey’s Afrin operation is a message to the U.S.,” Gabriel said, and underlined that Ankara seemed to be ready for paying any cost to prevent terrorist PKK and associated groups to take control of areas bordering Turkey.
The U.S. administration long claimed that its military support to PYD and YPG, the Syrian branches of the PKK, was limited to fight against Daesh in the region.
However, it continued supplying heavy weapons to the terrorist group even after the victory against Daesh last year, and announced in January plans to form a “border force”, sparking an uproar in Ankara.
While the U.S. regarded the PKK as a terrorist organization, it has not yet listed its Syrian branches PYD or YPG as terrorist organizations.
Former German foreign minister underlined that there was not much real difference between these organizations.
“For Turkey and for the majority of international observers, such a distinction is rather artificial,” Gabriel stressed.
“The PKK and YPG have very close ties, and these are not only symbolic or ideological. We must continue to assume that the YPG and PYD operate under the strategic leadership of the PKK, though they enjoy relative autonomy in their operations,” he added.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years and has been responsible for the death of nearly 40,000 people.