Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has said Ankara informed the US and Russia two hours before Turkish airstrikes targeted positions belonging to Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday during a trip to Uzbekistan, the foreign minister contradicted comments by US Department of State spokesperson Mark Toner, who had said on Tuesday that Turkey had carried out the strikes “without proper coordination.”
“We have always said that we will fight terrorist groups without differentiating between them. We are always reiterating that we will carry out operations against threats. We told the US, our ally, directly that we would conduct the operation. We told them to move their forces 20-30 km to the south,” Cavusoglu said.
“As per our agreement we informed the USA and Russia two hours before the operation. We shared this information with the Coalition’s Coordination headquarters in Qatar. In the past few weeks we have told our US allies countless times through military and diplomatic channels that we will conduct an operation. We do not have a secret agenda. There is a threat to us from there and we are engaged in legitimate self defence.”
More than a dozen Turkish airstrikes killed 20 fighters of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), as well as two civilians, in the Mount Karachok area in northeastern Syria on Tuesday morning.
Concurrent airstrikes on the Shingal region in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Region resulted in the death of five Peshmergas, a Yazidi member of the Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) and a Yazidi civilian, according to reports.
Turkey says the YPG and YBS are affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a four-decade insurgency against Ankara for Kurdish autonomy in the country’s southeast.
Following the airstrikes the US has said Turkey cannot fight the PKK at the expense of the regional fight to defeat the Islamic State (IS).
The YPG is the leading force in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is currently in the final phases of a military operation to capture IS’s Syrian stronghold Raqqa.
The Kurdish group has accused Turkey of supporting jihadist forces and weakening the fight against the IS group with its attacks.