United States denies Turkish president Erdogan’s accusations of ‘supporting Islamic State’

Ankara: The United States embassy in Ankara denied Washington had ever supported Islamic State (IS) jihadists in the Syrian conflict after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed the extremists had enjoyed US backing.

“The United States government is not supporting Daesh,” the embassy said in a terse statement, using another acronym for IS.

The United States “did not create or support Daesh in the past. Assertions the United States government is supporting Daesh are not true,” it added.

The statement did not mention Erdogan by name but said there was “considerable misinformation circulating in Turkish media” about the US operations against IS in Syria. “For those interested in the truths, here are the truths,” the embassy said.

Erdogan had accused coalition forces led by the United States of supporting not just the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) in Syria but also IS. “It’s quite clear, perfectly obvious,” he said, adding that Turkey could provide proof in pictures and video.

The YPG works on the ground with the United States against IS but is seen as a terror group by Ankara and the local branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). However, the embassy said: “The United States government has not provided weapons or explosives to the YPG or the PKK – period.”

Erdogan said that the US-led coalition forces fighting against IS in Syria had also failed to provide assistance for the Turkish operation to capture the jihadist-held town of Al-Bab.

Responding to this allegation, the embassy said the United States continues to work closely with Turkey to “determine how we can increase our efforts to defeat (IS)… and eliminate this scourge that threatens both our peoples.” It said the discussions included how best to help Turkish forces and their Syrian opposition allies fighting the jihadists around Al-Bab.

The US backing of the YPG and criticism of the human rights climate in Turkey has angered Ankara in the final months of the administration of President Barack Obama.

Turkish officials have expressed hope for a “new page” under President-elect Donald Trump including the extradition of Erdogan’s arch enemy Fethullah Gulen who he blames for the 15 July failed coup.