U.S. Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said that the United States would continue supporting the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) despite Turkey's objections.
“I think at this stage we have mostly agreed to disagree,” she said on July 21, adding that the Kurdish-led fighters have proved very effective to ensure security in Syria in the fight against ISIS.
Nuland made the comments while addressing a panel of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Turkey deems the YPG a terrorist organization due to the group's links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). It has carried out military offensives in northern Syria in the previous years against the group.
During the panel on July 21, U.S. lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, voiced strong opposition to a number of Turkish policies.
Senator Bob Menendez inquired about the United States' stance on the role of YPG in Syria, asking Nuland: "Agree to disagree means we continue to pursue our view and our engagement with the Syrian Kurds including the YPG?"
In response, Nuland replied: "Yes."
US senators slam crackdown on HDP
Menendez and other senators also raised concern over Ankara's efforts to ban the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the crackdown on critics.
Describing Ankara's actions as those of “weak government,” Menendez said: “These are the actions of a weak government, not a global power, and we must treat it as such.”
Menendez said Turkey’s elections scheduled for 2023 will not be legitimate if the HDP is unable to enter it.
“Those elections could not have validity,” he said. “That’s like if President Biden banned the Republican party from participating. C’mon.”
Nuland said that efforts to ban the HDP from politics are a part of the “larger concern” about democracy in Turkey.
“It’s a far different matter to use terrorism as an excuse to eradicate political pluralism or ban individual parties,” she said.
Yet, Nuland offered a glimmer of hope in improving ties with Turkey, as she said that the presence of Turkish forces in Afghanistan to maintain the security of the Kabul airport is “vital.”
“Most recently, Turkey has expressed interest in maintaining a robust force at Kabul’s airport as the US and NATO military missions in Afghanistan come to an end,” Nuland said.
“This contribution is vital to ensuring we and our allies and partners can maintain a strong diplomatic presence in Kabul after our troops withdraw," she said.
Turkey has offered to deploy troops to the airport after NATO fully withdraws and has been in talks with the United States for several weeks.