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Published: Thu, May 11, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

Syrian Kurds welcome US arms, Turkey objects


Turkey on Wednesday slammed as unacceptable a USA plan to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Ankara considers terrorists, but the militia applauded a "historic" move that would speed up the defeat of Islamic State (IS) extremists.

Turkey's defense minister on Wednesday said the USA decision to supply arms to Kurdish fighters in Syria could develop into a "crisis" between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

That is because, to the Turkish government, the YPG is not an ally, but a terrorist group - Ankara considers the group the armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which launched an armed insurgency against the Turkish government in 1984 and has been responsible for violent acts since.

The Turkish deputy Prime Minister on Wednesday described the US' decision to arm Kurdish fighters in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria as "unacceptable".

The YPG militia is a key component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition partners of the US on the ground in Syria fighting Islamic State extremists.

A first consignment of weapons is already in place for delivery and could be dispatched to the Kurds "very quickly", said US Colonel John Dorrian, a military spokesman for the US-led coalition.

"We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey", Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement as she travelled in Lithuania with defence secretary Jim Mattis.

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Tuesday's announcement comes ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Washington next week to meet Trump. The city is comparatively small and compressed against the Euphrates, which gives assaulting forces a tactical advantage as they move to surround it. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to USA control, the officials said. "This policy will not bring any benefit to anybody", Canikli told Turkey's A Haber news channel.

"ISIS threatens them, as has the PKK, which the US has recognized as a terrorist organization for right about 20 years now", he said. "The Kurdish issue-focused Peoples" Democratic Party (HDP), however, said the US decision to support the YPG in Syria was "already expected".

"If the opposite decision is made, the consequences will bring negative outcomes, not only for Turkey but also for America", Anadolu quoted him as saying.

"Every weapon that reaches their hands is a threat toward Turkey", Cavusoglu said in comments that were televised live.

"We will work together, we'll work out any of the concerns". The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter, said artillery or surface-to-air missiles would not be provided. "It can go different ways, depending on the US thinking down the road".

But Washington disagrees and insists the YPG - which leads the SDF's alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias that has driven the extremists from about 6000 sq of northern Syria over the past two years, with the help of US-led coalition air strikes - is needed to capture IS-held Raqqa.

"That is why we are seeing more pro-Iranian militias being built in or for northern and eastern Syria in recent months", he added.

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