WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – On Wednesday, the State Department’s Acting Spokesperson Mark Toner reiterated the US position on the presence of the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) in Sinjar (Shingal), “We don’t believe they should be there.”
Toner explained the position of the new Trump administration “remains the same” on this issue, as it had been in the previous administration.
The Spokesperson also revealed the tripartite meetings in Antalya, Turkey that America’s top military officer, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held earlier this week with his Russian and Turkish counterparts—Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, and Gen. Hulusi Akar, chief of the Turkish general staff—encompassed more than the deconfliction of forces in Manbij, where elements of the US, Russian, and Turkish armies now find themselves in close proximity.
The talks among the senior military officers also included discussion of “other terrorist organizations” active in the region, “including [the] PKK, al-Qaida, [and] al-Nusrah Front,” Toner said.
The Obama administration did not routinely equate the PKK with the Islamic terrorist organizations that the US is fighting—as Toner did in what was only the State Department’s second press briefing since Donald Trump took office.
His comments may signal a tougher US position toward the PKK under the new administration.
However, the Spokesperson was also critical of Turkey’s decision to shut down the operations of Mercy Corps, an Oregon-based humanitarian agency, funded partly by the US government, which has played a major role in assisting Syrian refugees.
Elaborating on earlier remarks, Toner explained that the State Department was in contact with Mercy Corps, which he described as “a valuable partner” which “provides critical humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees in Turkey and the region,” as well as with the Turkish government.
Shutting down the operations of the relief agency would negatively impact a considerable number of Syrian refugees in Turkey itself, Toner cautioned.
In a press statement, released on Tuesday, Mercy Corps said, “We remain hopeful that the government of Turkey will allow us to return to serve those in critical need.”
Editing by Delovan Barwari