Activists say Kurdish-led forces advance on IS-held Raqqa
Activists say Kurdish-led forces advance on IS-held Raqqa
15 May, 2017, 17:56
The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump had approved arming the YPG, or what it called "Kurdish elements" of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Ankara is concerned that the Syrian Kurds are plotting to create their own state in Syria along the Turkish border and says the YPG is the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a separatist rebel group that has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984.
Erdogan, who is to meet with Trump during a visit May 16 to Washington, is expected to express his anger at the USA president's decision to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria in preparation for an attack on Raqqa, the Syrian city serving as the capital of the Islamic State (ISIS).
The main Kurdish force in Syria says it will seek "neighborly relations" with Turkey, which views it as a terrorist organization. "I want to consider all the information we have received so far (on USA arming Syrian Kurds) as hearsay..."
The YPG is seen by the USA as an indispensable ally in the fight against ISIL but considered a "terrorist group" by Turkey. The weapons have not yet been delivered to the Kurdish-led forces, which include an Arab fighters unit. Turkey, along with the US and Europe, lists the party, known as the PKK, as terrorist organization. "And for the SDF (mainly the YPG) to undertake a fight of this difficulty, they need a qualitative step up in how you're arming them", Heller said.
"The attack on Raqqa will take place in the beginning of the summer", Syrian Democratic Forces commander Rojda Felat told AFP.
The Pentagon has long regarded the YPG as the most effective fighting force in northern Syria, where Isis has held swaths of territory.
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"The types of action to be taken in Syria by the global coalition against Daesh - in which France participates alongside the United States - will be determined on the basis of this priority", it said.
"As a volunteer that has spent years supporting the YPG, I'm astonished this sort of help didn't come sooner".
"If we are strategic allies we must take decisions as an alliance". The Kurds of Afrin are also locked in a struggle with the Sunni Arab fundamentalists and so have a tacit alliance with Assad (though they are at odds with Damascus in some ways due to their demand for a decentralized, federal Syria).
Muslim said that they have have given guarantees to the Americans that the weapons do not end up in PKK hands. "We wouldn't even know where the shelling was coming from", the mother of five said. Behind the reluctance by both administrations has been a strong concern over how Turkey will react.
"The defense secretary on numerous occasions made very, very clear, an unequivocal commitment that they would never allow those weapons to be turned against Turkey", he said as he underlined reassurances made by Mattis.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to convince Trump to reverse his administration's decision in a meeting between the two leaders at the White House next week. "If the alliance is to be overshadowed we'll have to sort things out for ourselves", Erdogan told reporters on Sunday, according to the pro-government Sabah newspaper. "This might be the beginning of the end of Turkey-U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation relationship", Kadercan said.
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