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Turkey slams US 'unacceptable' weapons supply to Kurdish fighters

The Syrian Democratic Forces are a US-back Kurdish-Arab alliance battling the Islamic State [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 May, 2017

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Turkey has slammed an announcement by Washington that it will arm Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State group militants in Syria, while the beneficiaries, the Syrian Democratic Forces, praised the move.

Turkey slammed an "unacceptable" US announcement that it will supply arms and military equipment to Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State group militants in Syria, reports said on Wednesday, while the Syrian Democratic Forces which will benefit from the deal praised the move.

"The supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable," Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told A Haber television. "Such a policy will benefit nobody."

"We expect that this mistake is to be rectified," he said, days ahead of a crunch meeting in Washington between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US counterpart Donald Trump.

The Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) is viewed by Washington as the most effective anti-IS force in Syria.

But Ankara regards the group as a terror outfit which is effectively the Syrian branch of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency since 1984 against Ankara, leaving tens of thousands dead.

On Monday, Trump "authorised the department of defence to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqa", Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.

The weapons are being delivered for use by Kurdish fighters ahead of the upcoming offensive to recapture Raqqa, the last major bastion for IS in Syria and the self-proclaimed "capital" of the group.

The US announcement came just ahead of Erdogan's visit to Washington next week for talks with Trump, the first time the two men will meet as heads of state.

A Turkish high-level delegation made up of Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Turkey's spy chief Hakan Fidan have already been in the US to lay the groundwork for the visit. 

Turkey has said it is keen to join the battle to recapture Raqqa but on the condition the offensive does not include the Syrian Kurdish fighters. 

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

Meanwhile, the Kurdish-Arab force battling the Islamic State group in Syria said US arms and military equipment to Kurdish fighters would "hasten the defeat" of the militants.

"The US decision to arm the YPG... is important and will hasten the defeat of terrorism," a spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Wednesday.

 

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