ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday told the US to stop “deceiving” Turkey and start cooperation, after Washington said it was concerned by the Turkish-led offensive on the Syrian city of Afrin.
Erdogan’s typically abrasive comments came after the US State Department reacted to the capture by Turkish forces of Afrin from Kurdish militia by sounding alarm over the fate of civilians and looting.
“If we are strategic partners, you must respect us and you must work with us,” Erdogan told Turkey’s Nato ally during a speech to ruling party lawmakers in parliament.
He said that the US had carried out “such a deception” against Turkey by arming the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which had controlled the Afrin region.
Turkish troops supporting Ankara-backed Syrian opposition fighters captured Afrin city during a lightning assault on Sunday, with the YPG largely withdrawing without a fight.
Turkey says the YPG is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency inside Turkey and is proscribed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
But US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Monday said the US was “deeply concerned” after the assault triggered an exodus of Kurdish civilians from the city.
Nauert said Washington was also “concerned over reports of looting inside the city of Afrin”, which AFP reporters had witnessed.
Erdogan hit back at the spokeswoman’s comments: “Where were you when we shared our concerns? When we said ‘let’s clean terrorists together here’, where were you?”
Turkey had previously suggested that it could clear Daesh in Syria with the US, but Washington chose to work with the YPG.
“On the one hand you will say to Turkey ‘you are our strategic partner’ and then after you are going to cooperate with a terror organisation? The reality is clear,” he said.
Relations between Turkey and the US have been strained over multiple issues including Washington’s move to supply the YPG with weaponry and the failure to extradite the Muslim preacher accused of ordering the July 2016 attempted overthrow of Erdogan.
“You attempted to deceive us. It was such a deception, I tell you, you sent 5,000 trucks of weapons there. You sent 2,000 ammunitions cargo there,” Erdogan said.
But the president said Turkey was seizing the ammunition “little by little”.
“We asked for weapons with our money, you didn’t give it to us. But you gave terrorists weapons and ammunition for free. How is this partnership? How is this solidarity?” he thundered.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier said meetings with the US had not stopped. “They continue. In the coming days, the foreign ministry undersecretary [Umit Yalcin] will go to the US,” Cavusoglu said, quoted by NTV broadcaster.