Every weapon obtained by YPG represents threat to Turkey, foreign minister says

Every weapon obtained by YPG represents threat to Turkey, foreign minister says

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump administration has announced it will arm Syria's Kurdish fighters "as necessary" to recapture the key Islamic State group stronghold of Raqqa, despite intense opposition from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey, which sees the Kurds as terrorists.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in Turkey. Turkish officials have not yet responded publicly. But The Washington Post reported those types of equipment are needed to successfully penetrate Raqqa, which is the Islamic State's de facto capital. The officials added that artillery or surface-to-air missiles will not be provided.

Dana W. White, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms Monday.

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

The United States has chose to arm Kurds fighting Islamic State in Raqqa, risking a backlash from Turkey.

Now the Kurdish forces are fighting ISIS for control of Tabqa, a city 50km from Raqqa. "And, we're going to sort it out, we'll figure out how to do it, but we're all committed to it".

Erdogan vowed to bring up the issue in talks with US President Donald Trump on 16 May in Washington, their first face-to-face encounter as heads of state.

Spokeswoman White later said Mattis had spoken with Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik and reassured him of USA commitment to protecting its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

To soften the blow, senior administration and military officials have been in near constant contact with their Turkish counterparts to assure them the Kurds will not be part of the force that enters Raqqa and will not dominate the establishment of a new local government. Bob Corker of Tennessee, says arming the Kurds is "the only viable solution right now" as an attack on the extremists stronghold of Raqqa nears.

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SDF fighters hold a position against Daesh outside of Raqqa.

Speaking in an interview with broadcaster A Haber, Canikli said "We can not accept the presence of terrorist organizations that would threaten the future of the Turkish state".

Last month, Erdogan said if Turkey and the United States joined forces, they could turn Raqa into a "graveyard" for jihadists.

But Turkey says YPG fighters are linked to Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) separatists inside Turkey, who have waged an insurgency since 1984 that has killed over 40,000 people.

"Our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another to take Raqa down", he said. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry and then require the Kurds to return it to US control, the officials said.

"We are carrying out, and will carry out, all necessary diplomatic communications", Canikli said.

America has long supplied arms to Arabs fighting Isis through the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Turkey's defense minister has described a USA decision to supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters as a "crisis" between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

But the United States does not envision Turkey actually participating in the ground offensive for Raqa, which IS has held for more than two years.

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