14 August 2012 / ABDULLAH BOZKURT, ANKARA
The US's top envoy in Turkey slammed the president of northern Iraq's Kurdistan region on Tuesday, saying that the US administration is not happy with the performance of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani in containing the activities of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.
We are not satisfied [with Barzani], the US ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, told a group of reporters in his residence. We want better results from Barzani.
Talking in detail about how the US views the surge of PKK terror attacks against Turkey, including the abduction of Turkish parliamentary deputy on Sunday, the US ambassador said that Washington urges Barzani and other leaders in Iraq to do more in reining in PKK terror.
The ambassador has acknowledged that border area between Turkey and Iraq have not been fully controlled, stressing that the US is helping both the KRG and Iraqi central government to enhance border control capacity. It has improved, but certainly more needs to be done, he noted.
Ricciardone stated that he personally knew Barzani from the 1990s when he was posted at the US embassy in Ankara, and underlined that the US still sees him as a friend and important figure in the rebuilding of Iraq. His blunt words about Barzani signaled however that the US is not happy with the way Barzani is acting in the face of the PKK terror. He said the intelligence cooperation and sharing between the US and Turkey against the PKK will continue.
The US envoy also criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for allowing Iranian arms transfers to Syria for which some suggests parts of the arms shipments may land into the hands of the PKK. Turkey has been very effective in preventing trucks and flights with arms and dual-use equipment from reaching Syria. Turkey has ensured that planes land for inspection. We wish Iraq to do the same as well, Ricciardone explained. The Syrian regime shares those arms with terror groups, he added.
Noting that the regime in Syria is no foreigner in supporting PKK terror against Turkey, Ricciardone said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's father had sheltered PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan for many years in the past. Now his son is supporting the PKK, he added.
Recalling that the US announced new sanctions on Lebanon-based Hezbollah, charging that the group had provided training, advice and extensive logistical support to Assad's government, US diplomat said Washington is trying to prevent terror groups from getting their hands on military arsenal.
He reaffirmed that both the US and Turkey are against sectarian and ethnic divisions in Iraq and Syria, saying that this is a dangerous path to take. Sectarian instincts and tensions must not be exacerbated and must not be exploited, he warned, underlining that both Washington and Ankara are on the same page on this very divisive issue.
The US ambassador said Washington strongly condemns the abduction of Hüseyin Aygün of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which marks the first time a lawmaker has been kidnapped by the PKK. We demand the immediate release of Mr. Aygün, he said, telling reporters that he personally phoned CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to express his outrage over the incident. [The abduction] seems so stupid and against the advancement of the interests of all people in Turkey, he remarked.
As for the close cooperation between Turkey and the US with regards to Syria, the ambassador discussed a meeting between visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish leaders on Saturday. Practical cooperation in relieving the suffering and agony of the Syrian people was discussed, he said, noting that the goal of Clinton's visit was to accelerate high-level planning across different agencies for the future of Syria in a post-Assad era.
Emphasizing that Turkey is a regional and global player that wishes to influence events outside its borders, the US ambassador said Ankara is trying to do positive things to change the course of history. He mentioned that the US is also working to boost the capacity of Turkish agencies in humanitarian efforts outside Turkish borders but stopped short of discussing the setting up of a buffer zone for the protection of civilians in Syria.
He said that a no-fly zone or buffer zone would only be established after a political decision is made. He made it clear, however, that both Turkey and the US have been working on contingency plans for all options. That is what we call as prudent planning', he said, adding that the US wants to exchange notes and information with its NATO ally Turkey on a regular basis.