Turkey slams US decision to arm Syrian Kurds

Turkey slams US decision to arm Syrian Kurds

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Turkey urged the United States on Wednesday to reverse a decision to arm Kurdish forces in Syria, saying every weapon supplied to the YPG militia constituted "a threat to Turkey".

The angry reply came a week before President Tayyip Erdogan is due in Washington for his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking while on a visit to Montenegro, said weapons supplied to the YPG had in the past fallen into PKK hands.

"Both the PKK and YPG are terrorist organizations and they are no different apart from their names," he told a televised news conference. "Every weapon seized by them is a threat to Turkey."

The United States sees the YPG as a valuable partner in the fight against ISIS militants in northern Syria, and says that arming the Kurdish forces is necessary to retaking the city of Raqqa, ISIS de facto capital in Syria and a hub for planning attacks against the West.

The YPG said Washington's decision would bring swift results and help the militia "play a stronger, more influential and more decisive role in combating terrorism".

The Pentagon said on Tuesday it was aware of concerns in Turkey, a NATO ally that has given vital support to a U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Jets carrying out air strikes against ISIS have flown from Turkey's Incirlik air base.

Erdogan has not yet responded to Trump's decision, but has repeatedly castigated Washington for its support of the YPG.

Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the United States should review its decision. "We hope the U.S. administration will put a stop to this wrong and turn back from it," he said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster A Haber.

"Such a policy will not be beneficial, you can't be in the same sack as terrorist organizations."

"There is no reality in the comments that a ground operation against ISIS can only be successful with the YPG. I hope they turn back from this mistake," Canikli said.

Despite the angry language, Erdogan's government has little chance of reversing Washington's decision, and any retaliatory move would come at a cost.

Cavusoglu said Erdogan would discuss the issue with Trump during his planned May 16-17 visit to Washington, suggesting there were no plans to call off the talks in protest.

"We are carrying out, and will carry out, all necessary diplomatic communications," Canikli said. "Our wish is that the U.S. stops this wrong and does what is mandated by our friendship."


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