Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a speech on Wednesday that Turkey would be justified in striking individuals it viewed as terrorists in foreign territory and that he hoped he could deliver “good news” on the subject soon.
The comments came amid a row with the Washington over moves to host Mazloum Kobani, a commander of Kurdish-led forces partnering the United States in Syria. Kobani has fought for an organisation listed as terrorists by Ankara and Washington and is one of Turkey’s most wanted men.
They also came the week after Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself during a U.S. special forces raid on his hideout near the Turkish border in northwest Syria. Following the raid, the Turkish interior minister said Kobani was “just as much of a terrorist as Baghdadi.”
“Some countries find and eliminate terrorists they see as threats to their national security wherever they may be. If that’s the case, it means it’s accepted that Turkey has the same right,” Erdoğan said.
“This includes those terrorists whose hands they shake,” he added. “I hope we will have good news for the nation on this matter soon.”
Lindsey Graham and other U.S. senators have asked for an expedited visa to be granted to Kobani so he can visit Washington to brief the U.S. Congress on events in Syria.
U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to withdraw troops from the northeast, where they were stations alongside Kobani’s Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), after a phone conversation with Erdoğan on Oct. 6.
This paved the way for Turkey’s military operation three days later, provoking condemnation from many U.S. lawmakers who viewed Trump’s decision as a betrayal of the SDF, which fought on the front lines of the U.S.-backed international coalition against the Islamic State.
Turkey views the SDF and its affiliates as terrorists due to their links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group on Ankara and Washington’s terror lists due to its 35-year fight against Turkish security forces for Kurdish self-rule.
Erdogan also views Fethullah Gulen, a religious leader lives in the U.S. since 1999, as a big threat and has tried to get him extradited since the coup attempt in 2016. Erdogan sees Gulen and his followers as a terrorist organisation and blames them for the coup attempt as well as the corruption charges filed against his close circles in 2013.