US Seeks to Defuse Row with Turkey over ‘Kurdish Terrorists’

Turkey's Erdogan tells Biden dialogue with both Russia and Ukraine important

Ankara, Feb 15 (AFP/APP): The United States on Monday sought to defuse a furious diplomatic row with NATO ally Turkey by saying it now accepts Ankara’s claim that Kurdish “terrorists” had executed 13 Turks in Iraq.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had lashed out at the State Department’s initial hesitance to blame the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for the deaths. Both sides view the PKK as a terrorist organisation but the US also backs a Kurdish militia in neighbouring Syria in the conflict against President Bashar al-Assad. Ankara on Sunday accused the PKK of executing the hostages — most of them soldiers and police abducted in Turkey and kept in a cave — as Turkish forces advanced in a rescue operation launched last week.

The PKK blamed Turkish air strikes for the deaths. The US State Department then fuelled Turkish ire by saying on Sunday that Washington “deplores the death of Turkish citizens” but was waiting for further confirmation of Ankara’s version of events.

Erdogan then branded Washington’s response “a farce”. “You said you did not support terrorists, when in fact you are on their side and behind them,” he said in televised remarks. The Turkish foreign ministry later summoned US ambassador David Satterfield to convey Ankara’s displeasure “in the strongest possible terms”.

Washington issued a new statement after Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu held his first official phone call on Monday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The Secretary expressed condolences for the deaths of Turkish hostages in northern Iraq and affirmed our view that PKK terrorists bear responsibility,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

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