Turkish, US defense heads talk PKK/PYD issue in Belgium

US’ James Mattis calls arming terrorist group necessity, not preference, responding to Fikri Isik’s concerns

 Turkey’s defense minister on Wednesday raised concerns over the U.S. arming the terrorist PKK/PYD in Syria.

Fikri Isik raised the issue with his U.S. counterpart, Defense Secretary James Mattis, in Brussels, Belgium’s capital, ahead of a NATO gathering on Thursday, said a source familiar with the conversation.

Mattis’ recent letter to Turkey regarding arming the PKK/PYD to fight Daesh, and the U.S. pledge to take back the weapons once their joint operation is over, was discussed, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Turkey considers the PYD to be Syrian offshoots of the terrorist PKK, while the U.S. has called it a “reliable ally” in the fight against Daesh in Syria.

More than 1,200 people, including security force personnel and civilians, have lost their lives since the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU — resumed its decades-long armed campaign in July 2015.

On Friday Isik said of Mattis’ letter: “Using one terror group to fight another is unacceptable.”

In Brussels, when Isik expressed his frustration with the U.S. arming the group, Mattis called arming the PYD “an interim situation triggered by necessity rather than preference,” said the source.

The top defense officials also discussed Iraq, Syria Afghanistan, and the Qatar crisis, with both agreeing the crisis must be resolved in the context of the Gulf state’s sovereignty, said the source.

During the NATO defense ministers gathering on Thursday, Isik is also scheduled to meet separately with his German and Australian counterparts, Ursula von der Leyen and Marise Payne.