Feb. 15 (UPI) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday criticized the US response to the death of 13 Turkish hostages in northern Iraq at the hands of Kurdish militants the day before, saying it was not strong enough.
Turkey said the Kurdish Workers’ Party, also known as the PKK, executed the hostages in a cave in the Kurdish region of Iraq, provoking outrage from the Turkish government.
The US State Department issued a statement condemning the action but stressing that the role of the PKK was still being confirmed.
“We support our NATO ally Turkey and extend our condolences to the families of those lost in recent fighting,” statement said. “If the reports of the deaths of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organization, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest terms.”
Erdogan viewed the statement as a lack of support from the Biden administration and threatened to end relations between the two countries.
“Turkey killed 42 terrorists in their hiding places, caves during the first phase of Operation Claw-Eagle 2 in northern Iraq,” Erdogan said. “[If the United States wants] to continue our alliance globally and in NATO, then you must stop siding with the terrorists. “
He added that “the blood of innocent people martyred in northern Iraq is in the hands of all those who defend, support and sympathize with the PKK terrorists.”
The United States’ relationship with the PKK is complicated, with the Turkish ally viewing the militants as a terrorist group, but it also led the Syrian Democratic Forces which aided the American soldiers in defeating the Islamic State there.
The Turkey-Kurdish conflict has raged since almost 40 years and often test Turkey’s relations with the United States. The Kurds control pockets of land in Syria near the Turkish border and hope for their own country, which Turkey rejects.
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