U.S. Backs Turkey Call for Kurds to Retreat East of Euphrates

  • Biden says Syria YPG won’t get U.S. support unless it complies
  • Turkey worried Kurdish gains in Syria may encourage PKK group

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called on Syrian Kurdish militants to retreat east of the Euphrates river, a demand that is likely to ease mounting tensions with Turkey -- a key ally in the war against Islamic State.

Standing next to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in the Turkish capital of Ankara, Biden said on Wednesday that U.S. aid for the Kurdish militant group YPG would be stopped if it didn’t comply. Syrian Kurds have been seeking to link enclaves they control along the frontier with Turkey, which Ankara fears will embolden Turkey’s own restive Kurds.

“We’ve made it absolutely clear" to the YPG that “they must move back across the river,” Biden said. "They cannot — will not — under any circumstance get American support if they do not keep that commitment.”

Yildirim said the spread of Kurdish groups in areas west of the Euphrates river in Syria wouldn’t be tolerated by Turkey. The Turkish military launched its biggest military operation in Syria earlier Wednesday to force Islamic State militants away from its border, and to deter further advances by the Kurds.

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