Erdogan says U.S. supports militants who executed Turks in Iraq

·2-min read
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party in Ankara

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States on Monday of supporting Kurdish militants who Ankara says executed 13 kidnapped Turks in northern Iraq, adding that a U.S. statement of condemnation was a "a joke".

Turkey said on Sunday militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) executed the captives, including military and police personnel, amid a military operation against the group.

The United States said it stood by Turkey and that it condemned the killings if it was confirmed that responsibility lay with the PKK.

The United States and European Union have designated the PKK a terrorist organisation, but in Syria U.S. forces have been fighting alongside Kurdish YPG fighters who Ankara considers to be inextricably linked to the PKK.

"Now there is a statement made by the United States. It's a joke. Were you not supposed to stand against the PKK, the YPG? You clearly support them and stand behind them," he told supporters of his AK Party in the Black Sea city of Rize.

Since Joe Biden was elected U.S. President last year, Turkey has repeatedly said it wants to improve strained ties with the United States, but U.S. support for the YPG has infuriated Ankara and remains a key disagreement between the allies.

Erdogan said that Ankara would continue its cross-border operations into Iraq against the PKK, which has waged a decades-old insurgency in the mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey, in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

"If we are together with you in NATO, if we are to continue our unity, then you will act sincerely towards us. Then, you will stand with us, not with the terrorists," Erdogan said.

He said nobody could criticise Turkey's cross-border operations in Syria or Iraq after the killings, and countries must choose between Turkey and the militants.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans)