Turkey president: Trump arming Syrian Kurds a 'mistake'
Turkey president: Trump arming Syrian Kurds a 'mistake'
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15 May, 2017, 18:17
The US insists it is not arming elements hostile to its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partner.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, have been battling IS for control of Tabqa for weeks and recently have received heavier weaponry from the United States to bolster their campaign in a move that alienated North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey.
Turkey on Wednesday reacted furiously to a USA plan to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Ankara considers terrorists, but the force battling militants said the move would hasten the extremists' defeat.
The SDF is a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters that has been working to isolate the city, but Ankara considers the group terrorists and an extension of outlawed Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington next Tuesday.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said earlier on the same day that he could not imagine the United States having to choose between Turkey's strategic partnership and a "terrorist organisation".
Ankara has argued that Washington should switch support for the Raqqa assault from the YPG to Syrian rebels that Turkey has trained and led against ISIS for the past year - despite Washington's scepticism about their military capability.
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Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White disclosed little about Mattis' meeting with Binali in London, where both men were attending a conference on Somalia.
The defense secretary, speaking to reporters aboard a USA military airplane after the meeting in London, characterized the discussions as "honest, transparent and helpful".
TRT World'sSoraya Lennie has more on Turkey's concerns. "It is conducting an active insurgency in Turkey, it has orchestrated the killing of innocent Turkish civilians and Turkish soldiers, and we support Turkey in its fight against PKK as a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member, just like all the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries stand with Turkey against the PKK", Mattis said. "It's Europe's southern border, and we'll stay closely connected", Mattis told reporters during a visit to Lithuania.
A USA official said Thursday that the weapons have not yet been delivered to the Kurds. A first consignment of weapons is already in place for delivery and could be dispatched to the YPG "very quickly", U.S. Colonel John Dorrian said May 10. "Every weapon seized by them is a threat to Turkey".
De Mistura spoke ahead of a planned resumption of United Nations -mediated talks between the Syrian government and opposition next week in Geneva.
One faction, Ghadab al-Furat launched a campaign in October 2016 to retake Raqqa. "We expect that this mistake is to be rectified", he said.
For its part, the YPG praised on Wednesday the "historic" U.S. decision to arm its fighters battling ISIL and said it expected to play a stronger and more influential role in what it called the fight against "terrorism". "They only have different names", Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
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