ANKARA (Hurriyet Daily News) — There is no question of Turkish forces stopping their bombardment of Syrian Kurdish fighters, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, as he responded angrily to Washington’s call for his country to halt its cross-border shelling of the group while blaming the United Nations for remaining aloof from what he dubbed “a crime against humanity” by Russia in Syria.
The West has kept mum in the face of a regime that has declared war against its own people, Erdogan said, while accusing some of supporting terrorist organizations in the area hatching dirty plans under the pretext of fighting against terror.
“There are meetings being held, is there any result from those meetings? No,” Erdogan said at the Presidential Palace in Ankara.
“Russia has showed its [true colors] by standing next to the murderer and tyrant [Bashar] al-Assad who has caused the death of almost 500,000 people. At the moment, [Russia] is close to committing a very serious crime against humanity and a war crime with the bombs that it has been showering now. What is the United Nations saying? ‘If it is confirmed, this is a war crime,’” he said. “What more are you looking for? Here, hospitals are being bombed and didn’t you see those photographs showing incubators? Send your staff and let them make the required examination there,” he said.
The president repeatedly voiced his fury with Washington over its view of Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara classifies as offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and labels as terrorist.
“At the moment, I have difficulty in understanding America, which still hasn’t called or still cannot call the PYD and the YPG as terrorists and which says, ‘Our support for the YPG will continue,’” he said.
The rapid of advance of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters, who are taking advantage of Russian air strikes in the region to seize territory near the Turkish border, has infuriated Ankara. In response, Turkey has been shelling YPG positions for days.
“They tell Turkey this: ‘Stop shelling the PYD and YPG.’ No offense, but we do not have such a thought. If someone fires a howitzer or bullet at Turkey, they will find a response many times over,” he said.
The United States called on Turkey and the YPG on Feb. 16 to ease increasing tension in northern Syria by abandoning their current actions in the region.
“The YPG needs to stop its own actions on the ground that we believe are raising tensions. But we would also urge Turkey to, as I said, cease firing artillery across the border,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Feb. 16 during a daily press briefing. “We just think it escalates tensions in the region.”
Toner reiterated the U.S.’ previous statements that it saw the PYD and YPG as an effective partner in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
“We do view them as an effective fighting force, but we’ve also been clear that we don’t want to see them take actions or hold territory that is going to create tensions either with Turkey or with other groups in that area,” Toner said, adding that the U.S. considered the YPG’s actions in the region to be “counterproductive to the overall effort to defeat ISIL.”
Erdogan has criticized the United States also for not backing Turkey’s proposals to establish a no-fly zone in Syria.
Erdogan said a no-fly would have prevented Russia’s air campaign in the region and thwarted thousands of civilian deaths.
“Oh America! You did not say ‘yes’ to a ‘no-fly zone.’ Now the Russian planes are running wild over there, and thousands and tens of thousands of victims are dying,” he said. “Weren’t we coalition forces? Weren’t we to act together?”