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Syrian Kurdish official praises US decision to provide arms

19 Mai 2017

It was the first face-to-face meeting of top officials from the two nations since the Pentagon announced the US would arm Syrian Kurds in the fight to oust Islamic State militants from the group's stronghold in Raqqa.

With the Trump administration's decision to supply Syria's Kurdish fighters with heavier weapons, USA troops inside Syria are in the crossfire between Turkey, a powerful North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, and the Kurdish fighters that Ankara deems as terrorists.

Before his meeting with Mattis, Yildirim had warned that "there is still an opportunity for the United States to take Turkey's sensitivities into consideration. We don't believe America would choose a terror group over our strategic relations", he told reporters.

Its warplanes have targeted YPG fighters with air strikes.

US -backed Syrian militias seized the town of Tabqa and Syria's largest dam from the Islamic State extremist group on May 10, clearing the way for an assault on Raqqa.

The fall of Tabqa, some 40 kilometers west of Raqqa, leaves no other major urban settlements on the road to the militant group's self-proclaimed capital and base of operations in Syria. On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that every weapon obtained by the YPG constitutes a threat to Turkey. Both Washington and Brussels classify the PKK as a terror group but do not regard the YPG as such.

"The United States and Turkey are two major partners in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation". Erdogan is expected to urge Washington to drop its support for those Kurdish forces.

For one, the YPG - and thus SDF - is not an extension of the U.S. Military. Iran views the prospect of permanent USA bases in Syria with a high degree of unease, reflected most recently by comments by officials of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who in Europe to confer with allies on defeating the Islamic State, joined by video teleconference.

Technicians fled the dam as fighting intensified in recent days, a source who works closely with them told AFP. Their half-hour conversation took place before an global conference on Somalia, and Mattis said he had no doubt the US and Turkey would "work this out with due consideration and significant attention paid to Turkey's security, to NATO's security and the continuing campaign against ISIS".

While the Kurdish-led SDF has been the USA -led coalition's most effective battlefield partner against ISIS in northern and eastern Syria, Turkey views the Kurds as terrorists and opposes including them in the Raqqa operation.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) said in a statement that the decision was "historic" and a "sign of confidence" in the group, allowing it to expand its operations against Daesh. I hope they turn back from this mistake.

The opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also underlined the timing of the announcement, describing it as a move "beyond political disrespect, a mockery against Turkey". "I think Washington made such an evaluation when taking this decision". Turkish warplanes attacked Kurdish YPG fighters in northeastern Syria and Iraq's Sinjar region late last month.

Canikli said Turkey would take the diplomatic initiative to convince Washington "to do what friendship requires".

It is unclear whether the United States may provide bigger equipment.

Syrian Kurdish official praises US decision to provide arms