Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan used an address to party officials Friday in Ankara as an opportunity to launch a blistering attack on the U.S. policy in Syria.
Erdogan openly asked why the U.S. is involving itself in a country 12,000 kilometers away. He then accused Washington of breaking commitments and promises, claiming the country was trying to trick him.
Bilateral relations have hit a low point over Washington’s arming of the Syrian Kurdish group the PYD in its fight against the Islamic State. Ankara accuses the PYD of being linked to a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
In a sign of the level of mistrust generated over the dispute, Erdogan accused the U.S. of sending large amounts of cash to Islamic State.
“Daesh is a group armed by those who claim to fight against the terror group,” Erdogan said, adding the U.S. had sabotaged operations against IS — also referred to as Daesh — and that whoever created the ruthless terrorist group also created the PYD.
Turkish pro-government media repeatedly have accused Washington of being behind Islamic State. Such theories got a boost from reports the Syrian Kurdish militia and U.S. forces had agreed to allow hundreds of Islamic State fighters and their families to leave the besieged Syrian city of Raqqa.
U.S.-Turkish relations could be further strained with Erdogan reiterating his call Friday for the removal of Syrian Kurdish forces in Afrin, a Syrian enclave on Turkey’s border. The Turkish president repeatedly has warned that a military operation would be launched against Afrin.
Analysts say such an operation would require Moscow’s permission, given it has its own soldiers deployed there. Erdogan said this week, however, that he had had a productive telephone call with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the subject.
The two leaders, along with their Iranian counterpart, are due to meet at a summit next week to discuss Syria. Ankara’s relations with both Tehran and Moscow have markedly improved in the last year, much to the concern of Turkey’s NATO allies.
Erdogan on Friday also announced Turkish forces had withdrawn from a NATO military drill in retaliation for slights made to him and the founder of the Turkish State, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, by other soldiers participating in the exercise. Erdogan warned there could be no alliance if such behavior continues.