United States committed to Turkey's security, Mattis tells Turkish PM Yildirim

Trevor Jackson
May 15, 2017

Both Turkey and the United States have designated the PKK a terrorist organization, though the United States does not consider the Syrian Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), who make up much of the SDF, the same organization as the PKK.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, have been battling the jihadist group for weeks in Tabqa, some 40 km (25 miles) west of Raqqa, along the Euphrates river.

Mr Yildirim said he could not imagine the USA having to choose between Turkey's strategic partnership and a terrorist organisation.

The YPG statement is sure to raise controversy, as fears have previously been voiced by Turkey of the USA decision to arm the Kurds that they will stockpile weapons and will later use them to launch further conflict as well as terrorist attacks for the sake of their independence after Daesh is defeated.

The capture of Tabqa seven weeks after the launch of the SDF offensive, with help from the USA -led coalition, sets the stage for an advance on Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the extremists' self-styled caliphate, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the east.

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 SDF, which also includes Arab fighters, has captured large swathes of land in northern Syria from IS with the help of US -led airstrikes.

But Ankara regards the YPG as a terror group and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which since 1984 has waged an insurgency inside Turkey leaving tens of thousands dead.

Activists say Kurdish-led forces advance on IS-held Raqqa
Erdogan welcomed Trump's election victory last November and said he hoped it would lead to "beneficial steps" in the Middle East. Kurds are an ethnic group predominantly concentrated along the borders of four countries - Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.


Sources said technicians at the dam had fled as fighting intensified in recent days, and on Thursday a fix team was on standby to enter and assess any damage to the structure after the SDF finished clearing mines laid by ISIL.

He called on Turkey to let go of its "unjustified" fears of the group.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday strongly criticized President Trump's decision to arm Syrian Kurds in the fight against ISIS, announced one day earlier. Unnerved by the Kurdish advances along the border, Turkey sent troops into Syria past year to help allied Syrian forces battle IS and block the SDF.

Mr Erdogan's remarks came a day after the United States announced it would arm the fighters as a necessary step to recapture Isil's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

The US-led coalition said a first consignment of weapons was already in place for delivery and could be dispatched to the Kurds "very quickly". A US official told Reuters that the USA was looking to boost intelligence cooperation with Turkey to support its fight against the PKK.

About 30,000 Tabqa residents have been displaced since fighting began in late March.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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