Feb. 15 (UPI) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday criticized the U.S. response to the death of 13 Turkish hostages in northern Iraq at the hands of the Kurdish militants the day before, saying it was not strong enough.
Turkey said the Kurdish Worker’s Party, also known as the PKK, executed the hostages in a cave in the Kurdish region of Iraq, sparking outrage from the Turkish government.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the action but pointing out that the PKK’s role was still being confirmed.
“We stand with our NATO ally Turkey and extend our condolences to the families of those lost in the recent fighting,” the statement said. “If reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organization, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”
Erdogan took the statement as a lack of support from the Biden administration and threatened to end the relationship between the two countries.
“Turkey has killed 42 terrorists in their hideouts, caves during the first phase of Operation Claw-Eagle 2 in northern Iraq,” Erdogan said. “[If the United States wants] to continue our alliance globally and at NATO, then you must stop siding with terrorists.”
He added, “the blood of innocent people martyred in northern Iraq is on the hands of all defending, supporting and sympathizing with PKK terrorists.”
The United States’ relationship with the PKK is complicated, with ally Turkey considering the militants a terrorist group but it also led the Syrian Democratic Forces that helped U.S. soldiers defeat the Islamic State there.
The Turkey-Kurdish conflict has raged for nearly 40 years and often testing Turkey’s relationship with the United States. The Kurds control pockets of land in Syria near the Turkish border and hope for their own country, something that Turkey rejects.