ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday he wanted Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, removed from his post, saying he supported Kurdish militants.
Heather Nauert, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that McGurk “has the full support and backing” of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the White House, and that he had done “tremendous work” so far to coordinate the coalition.
Cavusoglu was speaking in an interview with broadcaster NTV after returning from a visit with President Tayyip Erdogan to Washington where they met President Donald Trump.
Ankara regards the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which is a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State, as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group fighting a decades-old insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
“Brett McGurk, the USA’s special envoy in the fight against Daesh (Islamic State), is definitely and clearly giving support to the PKK and YPG. It would be beneficial if this person is changed,” Cavusoglu said.
Nauert said in her statement that the United States respects Turkey’s concerns about its approach, and will continue regular consultations on the issue.
“It is critical that we are closely linked with partners on the ground to coordinate both military and civilian efforts to sustain momentum and focus against ISIS,” Nauert said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
Reporting by Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Dominic Evans and Jonathan Oatis