US To Arm Kurds In Syria, Despite Turkish Opposition

Cheryl Sanders
May 15, 2017

The US "may have begun" dispersing weapons to Kurdish YPG fighters in #Syria "very quickly", in support of the operation to retake Raqqa from the so-called Islamic State. Both Turkey and the United States have designated the PKK a terrorist organization, though the United States does not consider the Syrian Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), who make up much of the SDF, the same organization as the PKK.

Prior to Thursday's meeting, Yildirim had warned that "there is still an opportunity for the United States to take Turkey's sensitivities into consideration".

In the meantime, Turkey's defense minister declared that the move to arm the Kurds is a "crisis", adding to the statement from the Turkish deputy prime minister that the decision is "unacceptable". "Such a policy will benefit nobody", he said. "We expect that this mistake is to be rectified".

Erdogan was speaking a day after the Pentagon announced that US President Donald Trump had approved arming what it called "Kurdish elements" of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group dominated by the YPG, the armed wing of the PYD, which is linked to the PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU.

In her second statement, White said "equipment" provided to the YPG will be "limited, mission specific and metered out incrementally as objectives are reached".

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.

The SDF, a US-backed group dominated by YPG but which also contains Arab elements, said that receiving USA arms and military equipment would "hasten the defeat" of the jihadists.

Erdogan is expected to meet President Trump on May 16.

Mr Yildirim said he could not imagine the U.S. having to choose between Turkey's strategic partnership and a terrorist organisation.

Canikli said Turkey would take the diplomatic initiative to convince Washington "to do what friendship requires". "YPG and PKK are both terror groups, there is no difference at all between them".

"Every weapon that reaches their hands is a threat toward Turkey", Cavusoglu said in comments that were televised live.

The weapons are being delivered for use by Kurdish fighters ahead of the upcoming offensive to recapture Raqa.

On April 27, Turkish warplanes struck YPG forces in Syria and also hit Kurdish forces in neighboring Iraq in what Ankara described as "terrorist havens".

But the strikes angered Washington which accused Turkey of failing to properly coordinate its moves.

The presence of Syrian Kurdish fighters on the battlefield could complicate the mission. Meanwhile, Trump was to receive Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov at the White House on Wednesday to discuss a Russian plan to establish safe zones in Syria and help end the six-year conflict.

Other reports by iNewsToday