Turkey opposes U.S. exempting Syrian Kurdish regions from sanctions – FM Çavuşoğlu

Turkey opposes the US decision to exempt regions controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from Caesar Act sanctions on Syria, Hurriyet Daily News reported on Friday. 

“This is a selective and discriminatory move,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a press conference on Friday. “They will have flexibility on [implementing] Caesar Act in certain areas.” 

The Turkish foreign minister made the remarks during a joint press conference with Christophe Lutundula Apala, his counterpart from the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The US Caesar Act bans companies from investing or doing business with Damascus. However, an exception has been made for areas in north and east Syria controlled by the US-allied SDF, Washington’s main ally against ISIS in Syria. Turkey opposes the SDF since its main component is the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers indistinguishable from its arch-enemy, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

Çavuşoğlu pointed out that the exemption does not apply to Afrin, a northwestern Syrian Kurdish region occupied by Turkey and its Syrian militia proxies. It also does not apply to neighbouring Idlib, a province controlled by the hardline Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) Islamist group, where millions of people require humanitarian assistance. 

“Here, we see an effort for legitimizing the PKK, the YPG,” he said. “This decision is taken on certain grounds and without consulting with anyone.” 

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