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Syrian Kurds seek 'neighborly' Turkey relations

Syrian Kurds seek 'neighborly' Turkey relations

"Every weapon obtained by the People's Protection Units [YPG] constitutes a threat to Turkey", declared Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) militia applauded a "historic" move that would speed up the defeat of Islamic State extremists but the issue risks stoking tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies ahead of Erdogan's critical visit to Washington.

The Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces captured Tabqa Wednesday, a day after the USA pledged to arm the fighters. But the Kurdish YPG, which forms the backbone of the group, is linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which Turkey, the US and other Western nations view as a terrorist group. Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Mattis, the US defense secretary, said on May 10 that the United States had had very open discussions with Turkey. Talal Sillo, a commander with SDF, said no weapons have yet been delivered to the group but that the US-led coalition had said that fast delivery was expected from weapons already in Syria with the worldwide coalition.

While the government expressed predictable anger, the deputy head of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Ozturk Yilmaz said it should go even further by postponing Erdogan's visit to the U.S.

The main Kurdish force in Syria says it will seek "neighborly relations" with Turkey, which views it as a terrorist organization.

The SDF often described as the most effective fighting force in Syria, is in the process of encircling al-Raqqa, the jihadists' de-facto capital.

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"I have no doubt that Turkey and the United States will work this out with due considerations, significant attention paid to Turkey's security", he said.

Tuesday's decision to arm the Kurds is a public rebuff to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a week before he meets Trump in Washington. "This issue is likely to come up when Turkish President Erdogan visits the White House next week".

The Syrian Kurds have been encircling Raqqa, preparing for the launch of what the USA military predicts will be a long and hard battle to retake the city. "We'll work out any of the concerns", he said. "In the past, Turkey has warned that arming the YPG could lead to "negative consequences" for the USA, implying they could limit the use of Incirlik air base".

"We'll do what we can to uncomplicate the situation for our partnered forces as they advance and retake that city", he said.

The city is largely surrounded and it is only a matter of time before YPG and other forces in a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance launch an offensive against the city.

A Turkish air raid in late April killed 20 YPG fighters and media officials, prompting the USA to deploy armoured vehicles along the border in a show of support for the group.


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