Turkey brands U.S. supplying arms to Syrian Kurds 'unacceptable'

Marco Green
May 15, 2017

Nasser Haj Mansour, an adviser to the SDF, said the town and the adjacent Tabqa dam were now "completely liberated" after the SDF drove all Islamic State militants out. Concerns were raised earlier this year that the dam could be damaged in the fighting or degraded by lack of maintenance, or that the extremists might sabotage it to flood the surrounding areas.

The US military command in the Middle East, Centcom, confirmed the liberation of Tabqa, situated on the Euphrates River about 55 kilometres upstream from Raqqa.

"The SDF, partnered with enabling support from US and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future", said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday. "The argument that a ground operation in the fight against Daesh (IS) would be successful only with YPG has nothing to do with reality", he said. A senior American official said the USA will step up joint intelligence-sharing with the Turks to help them better target terrorists.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), one of the main Kurdish militia groups in Syria, has proclaimed its aim to "build a free Syria" using the arms sent to them by the United States.

Mr Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and analyst at Carnegie Europe, said: "Turkey doesn't have much room to move here".

Turkey is deeply opposed to the arms agreement and has called for its reversal.

The capture of Tabqah came a day after the Trump administration announced it will supply the SDF with heavier weapons ahead of a push on Raqqa.

Erdogan has shown no signs of backing away from his demand that the US break ties with the YPG, which is viewed in Turkey as linked to the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party.

It considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.

Mattis stressed the enduring nature of the U.S. -Turkey relationship in a meeting with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, the first face-to-face contact between officials from the two countries since the U.S. announcement about military support for the Syrian Kurds.

Khalil dismissed the label, saying the USA would not supply arms to terrorists.

The coalition said Thursday that Islamic State had moved its external attack planning operations to Tabqa after their defeat in Manbij in order to avoid coalition airstrikes in Raqqa.

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) removes an Islamic State group flag in the town of Tabqa, west of Raqqa.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday he hoped Washington would "reverse" its decision to arm a Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) before his visit to the US next week.

Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement on Tuesday that President Donald Trump made a decision to "equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as necessary to ensure a clear victory" against ISIL in Raqqa, the group's self-declared capital in Syria.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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