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Turkey calls for removal of US envoy for anti-IS coalition

Updated May 19, 2017

ISTANBUL: Turkey called on Thursday for the removal of the US diplomat coordinating the international coalition fighting the militant Islamic State group, accusing him of backing Syrian Kurdish militias.

Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which Turkey considers a front for outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels.

“Brett McGurk is definitely giving support to the PKK and YPG. It would be useful if this person was replaced,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.

Last year, McGurk visited YPG members who controlled the Syrian town of Kobane and was awarded a plaque, drawing Turkey’s wrath.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily told Washington at the time to choose between Ankara and “terrorists”.

But Ankara is now upbeat about the future of relations with Washington under President Donald Trump, with Cavusoglu praising the new administration as “more sincere” after Erdogan’s talks with the US leader this week.

Erdogan met Trump at the White House on Tuesday, with the two leaders pledging to improve ties between the Nato allies — even as Erdogan gave a stern warning about Washington’s arming of Kurdish militia in Syria.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to take the YPG-PYD into consideration as partners in the region, and it’s going against a global agreement we reached,” Erdogan said in Washington, referring to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, whose armed wing is the YPG.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2017