The continuing rift between fellow NATO members Turkey and the United States was if anything, augmented at the G20. During the summit, Turkish President Erdogan praised Russian leadership on multiple Syrian peace initiatives, including and especially the Astana peace process. Likewise, President Putin stated at his press conference that while Russia maintains close cooperation with all non-jihadist parties in the Syrian conflict, including Kurdish forces, that Russia’s role is to de-escalate tensions from all sides rather than to stir conflict let alone endorse any specific political programme.
On the last day of the G20, Erdogan delivered a strong message condemning Kurdish nationalism in both Syria and Iraq, something opposed by all major international and regional powers with the possible exception of the United States. In recent months Saudi Arabia has shown sympathy to the Kurdish cause after Turkey declared its full support for Qatar in the current crisis in the Persian Gulf. Likewise, Israel has long been a well-known supporter of regional Kurdish ambitions.
Erdogan made the following statement which was clearly directed primarily at the United States,
“We will definitely not remain silent and unresponsive to the support and arming of terror organisations next to our borders and the forming of terror havens in the region”.
In spite of the US and EU both naming the Kurdish nationalist PKK as a terrorist group, the US and to an extent some EU powers have thrown their weight behind their Syrian affiliates PYD/YGP.
Erdogan continued, addressing the Kurdish separatist referendum in northern Iraq which is to be held in September of 2017. He stated,
“We do not support the idea of a divided Iraq, and a referendum would hurt the peace and stability in the country. If division starts in the north, it would extend to Turkmens, Arabs and there can even be a sectarian-based division between Shias and Sunnis”.
Erdogan like any Turkish leader (whether a Kemalist or Islamist) would automatically be opposed to any Kurdish state on Turkey’s borders. This is a legitimate fear that the United States, a traditional US ally has failed to address multiple times. American ambiguity on whether Washington is in fact pushing for the creation of a Kurdish state on either Syrian or Iraqi territory has not done anything to assuage Erdgoan’s apprehensions on the issue.
While Donald Trump sought to mend fences with Russia, if anything Erdogan’s statement is an indication that US-Turkish relations continue to decline, primary over the Kudish issue.