Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday called for the removal of Brett McGurk, the top U.S. envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, alleging he supported Kurdish militants.
McGurk, a special presidential envoy, is a holdover from the Obama administration in his current post, but previously also worked for the Bush administration on Iraq.
The special envoy is seen as having a close working relationship with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia which is regarded as being the best fighting force on the ground pushing back Islamic State.
He visited their territory in northern Syria on Tuesday.
Speaking with broadcaster NTV, Cavusoglu accused McGurk of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group inside Turkey fighting the government as part of a more than 30-year insurgency over minority rights.
The PKK is listed by both Washington and Ankara as a terrorist organization.
On May 8, the U.S. decided to arm and equip the YPG inside Syria as it moves to take al-Raqqa city from Islamic State, to deprive it of a key headquarters and its capital.
Turkey was angered by the move.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan went to the White House this week but appeared unable to alter President Donald Trump’s plan to work with the YPG on al-Raqqa.
The YPG says it is separate from the PKK, though Turkey does not accept this, and insists it does not want conflict with Ankara.
The U.S. says it will ensure all weapons to the YPG remain focused on Islamic State