"Russia and Iran are both trying to bolster a brutal regime in Syria, limit U.S. military influence in Iraq and Afghanistan and fracture the longstanding strategic partnership between the U.S. and Turkey," Gen. Joseph Votel said in a written statement submitted to the House Armed Services Committee before attending its hearing on Terrorism and Iran in Congress.
In his testimony during the hearing, Votel said Moscow plays the role of both arsonist and firefighter, fueling tensions among all parties in Syria by supporting the Bashar Al-Assad regime and adding complexity to the defeat Daesh campaign.
Following Votel’s remarks, South Carolina Republican Representative Joe Wilson asked Votel what has been done in order to continue the important alliance with Turkey, describing it as a valued ally of the United States for nearly a century and a member of NATO that “has been fighting side by side with Americans for freedom”.
Votel said Turkey has been "absolutely vital" throughout the entire campaign against Daesh, adding that Ankara certainly has serious concerns about "PKK terrorism” which has created some tension with some partners of the U.S. in Syria.
The U.S. communicates with Turkish officials in a transparent and clear way about the things the U.S. is doing on a day-to-day basis with its partners, he continued.
However, Votel in his statement to the committee said the tension between the U.S. and Turkey is a result of Ankara's view of recognizing YPG elements as analogous to the PKK terrorist group.
The U.S. has supported the PKK/PYD under the name of SDF, which is considered by Ankara as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror organization that has waged a more than 30-year war against the Turkish state.
American support for the terror group has long vexed Ankara, as Washington views the SDF as a "reliable partner" in its fight against Daesh and continues to provide it with arms and equipment in the face of strong objections by Turkey.
The PKK has fought a 33-year war against Turkey that has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.