Middle East Turkey wants US anti-Islamic State envoy McGurk removed

Turkey wants US anti-Islamic State envoy McGurk removed
Brett McGurk, center, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition against the Islamic State visits a water treatment plant south of Mosul, Iraq, May 15, 2017.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday said he wanted the US Presidential Envoy to the International Coalition against the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, replaced after claiming he supports Kurdish interests.

McGurk, a career diplomat, has overseen the most critical phases of the war on IS in Syria and Iraq since it emerged in 2014 as a self-declared Caliphate ruling large swaths of territory.

"McGurk is clearly giving support to the PKK and YPG. It would be beneficial if this person were to be replaced," Cavusoglu said, accusing the top American diplomat heading the war against IS of supporting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group the US and Turkey designate as "terrorist."

Ankara views the PKK, which is fighting Turkish troops, as the umbrella organization for the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). The latter is allied with the US in the ground operations against IS in Syria.

Speaking on the privately-owned Turkish news channel NTV, Cavusoglu claimed that "some" remaining American officials from the previous US administration under Barack Obama were "creating risks and poisoning" President Donald Trump's new government.

Cavusoglu accompanied President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Washington DC where a highly anticipated meeting with President Trump took place on Tuesday. He went on to suggest McGurk is "one of those American officials" the Turkish delegation against which they advised caution.

Cavusoglu stated that Erdogan's delegation to the White House did not openly request Trump to remove McGurk.

"But we told them that those still in charge [from Obama's tenure] would affect our relations," he said.

Erdogan's government has on numerous occasions held Obama-era generals and diplomats responsible for intensifying Kurdish-American bonds in Syria. The latest contribution deepening that relationship was Trump's authorization to arm the YPG with heavy weapons this month.

In March, Cavusoglu claimed US generals could “mislead Trump with respects to the Syrian Kurds, the same way they did with Obama.”

McGurk drew Turkish ire particularly after his visits last year to the Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria, which the YPG, the Kurdistan Region's Peshmerga forces, and US-led Coalition warplanes managed to spare from falling into the hands of IS militants after a months-long assault in 2014.

McGurk received a plaque from the YPG commander Polat Can in Kobani which had Turkey in an uproar as Erdogan called on the US to choose "between terrorists or us."

According to the major Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, months later in Sep. 2016, Erdogan personally scolded McGurk telling him “don't do it again” in a meeting with the former US Vice President Joe Biden in New York.


Editing by G.H. Renaud