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U.S. to Arm Syrian Kurds Fighting Islamic State Despite Turkey’s Ire

admin | 10 Mayıs 2017 | Son dakika

Despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey, U.S. President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to Kurdish YPG fighters to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia, fighting within a larger U.S.-backed coalition, as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

There was no immediate reaction from Turkey, whose president, Tayyip Erdoğan, is expected to meet Trump in Washington next week.

The Pentagon immediately sought to stress that it saw arming the Kurdish forces “as necessary to ensure a clear victory” in Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria and a hub for planning the group’s attacks against the West.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement as she traveled in Lithuania with defense secretary Jim Mattis.

“We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally,” White said.

The U.S. alliance with Turkey has proven decisive in the battle against Islamic State in Syria, providing the coalition with access to Turkey’s Incirlik air base to wage strikes against the militants, officials say.

Mattis, speaking before the announcement to reporters in Denmark and after talks with coalition members, sounded upbeat about working through tensions with Ankara.

“Our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another, to take Raqqa down, and we’re going to sort it out and we’ll figure out how we’re going to do it,” Mattis said.

Mattis called Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik on Tuesday, the Pentagon said. It was unclear how Isik responded but the Pentagon said that both “affirmed their support for peace and stability in both Iraq and Syria.”

The decision to arm the Syrian Kurds will likely cast a shadow over Erdoğan’s visit to Washington, policy experts said.

 

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