Backed force seizes key Syria city, dam from IS

It is the first face-to-face meeting between senior US and Turkish officials since President Trump gave the Pentagon the green light to directly provide arms and heavy weapons to Kurdish militias battling the Islamic State in Syria. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Turkish officials warned their American counterparts of such an attack on Wednesday, citing an unnamed Turkish official who told the newspaper, "Turkey's message to the Trump administration was that Turkey reserves the right to take military action".

Redur Khalil, the spokesman for the Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, on Thursday called on Turkey to let go of its "unjustified" fears of the group, which is battling Islamic State militants with the help of US -led airstrikes. And American officials have stressed that the USA will try to ensure that the arms supplied to Kurdish fighters aren't smuggled out for separatist attacks on Turkish interests.

A Pentagon spokeswoman described the SDF as "the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future", while also stressing that "we are keenly aware" of Turkey's security concerns.A YPG spokesman said the decision would "provide a strong impetus" to all forces fighting IS.

"We support Turkey in its fight against PKK", he said.

But U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was confident the United States would be able to resolve the tensions.

The Syrian Kurds have been encircling Raqqa, preparing for the launch of what the USA military predicts will be a long and hard battle to retake the city.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the USA was still going through a "transition period" and said his visit to the White House on Monday would mark a "new beginning" in relations.

Turkish main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) criticized on Wednesday the US decision, urging President Erdogan to cancel his upcoming visit to the U.S.

Erdogan said he did not want to see "a terrorist organisation alongside the United States", and that Turkey would continue military operations against Kurdish militia targets in Iraq and Syria.

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The United States took this long to commit to arming SDF, despite its stated objective of destroying ISIS, because of concerns from the Turkish government. "We don't believe America would choose a terror group over our strategic relations", he said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it was "out of the question" for Turkey to accept any direct or indirect help for the PKK.

So much is at stake: The U.S. can not afford to alienate a Turkish government that remains crucial in the ongoing battle against Islamist militancy. "Turkey could try to undermine the operation by attacking the YPG again in Syria", says Mr. van Wilgenburg.

As if this was not enough, the spokesman of the coalition forces fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria won't shut up at this critical stage and adds insult to injury by saying the US will not recall the weapons it is issuing to the Syrian Kurds if and when they retake the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa.

"We will work very closely with Turkey in support of their security on their southern border", he added.

Turkey, the USA and other Western allies view the PKK as a terrorist group.

Cavusoglu said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would take up the issue with President Donald Trump during a visit to Washington planned for next week.

"We do not ever give weapons to the PKK, we never have and never will".

The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will arm the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces "as necessary" to recapture the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.

  • Megan Austin