Turkey slams US move to exempt SDF-held areas in Syria from sanctions

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Turkey’s foreign minister on Friday denounced a US move to exempt areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is spearheaded by Kurdish militants outlawed by Ankara, from its sanctions on the Assad regime, saying it seeks to legitimize “terrorists,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the move is arbitrary and “lacks objective criteria” at a press conference with Christophe Lutundula Apala, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) leads the US-backed SDF, which remains in control of large swathes of northeastern Syria.

Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.

Turkey also has a military presence in Syria, where it has seized territory in successive military operations since 2016.

Turkey has carried out three cross-border operations in Syria against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well as US-backed Kurdish militias and has frequently used factions of armed Syrian fighters in addition to its own forces.

Turkey’s Western allies have accused it of weakening the fight against ISIL and undermining stability through its military actions in northern Syria.

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