Pentagon tries to ease Turkey's concerns with arming Kurds
12 May, 2017, 03:45
U.S. Air Force Col. John L. Dorrian, U.S. spokesman for the U.S. -led anti-Islamic State global coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve, made the announcement during a webcast press conference on Wednesday.
Weapons supplied to the YPG have in the past fallen into PKK hands, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The U.S. -led coalition fighting the Islamic State group says the Kurdish-led Syrian opposition forces' capture of a key town and nearby dam in eastern Syria from the militants undermines IS's ability to defend its de facto capital, Raqqa.
Anti-Islamic State fighters, backed by US forces, have seized a strategic town in northern Syria and will soon move "within striking distance" of Raqqa, the terrorist group's self-proclaimed capital, a USA military spokesman said Wednesday.
Ankara says the Kurdish militia, which forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is an extension of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, which has been waging a decades-old insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and other Western countries.
That is because, to the Turkish government, the YPG is not an ally, but a terrorist group - Ankara considers the group the armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which launched an armed insurgency against the Turkish government in 1984 and has been responsible for violent acts since.
Ankara strongly opposes US support of the YPG, viewing it as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency inside Turkey.
The United States regards the YPG as a valuable partner in the fight against Islamic State militants in northern Syria.
The defense secretary, speaking to reporters aboard a USA military airplane after the meeting in London, characterized the discussions as "honest, transparent and helpful". The spokesman for the USA -led coalition against IS, Col. John Dorrian, said US troops were about 6 miles from the strikes and put American forces at risk.
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"Both the PKK and YPG are terrorist organisations and they are no different apart from their names", he said.
"There is a concern that American forces in Syria can be targeted because there are many who are not happy about their presence", said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington-based Kurdish affairs analyst.
But the United States is convinced they are the most effective local fighting force against IS.
Meanwhile, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis expressed confidence that the United States can allay Turkey's concerns over the decision.
Tuesday's decision to arm the Kurds is a public rebuff to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a week before he meets Trump in Washington.
The Kurdish commanders had long maintained that they could not be America's chief ally and boots on the ground while North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Turkey carried out airstrikes and ground incursions against their forces.
The green light was given just one week before Turkey's president will visit the White House.
Turkey believes the US-backed Syrian Kurds, known as the YPG, are terrorists.
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