Erdogan calls US decision to arm Syrian Kurds ‘mistake’, urges Trump to reverse the decision

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Kurdish fighters of the YPG [leading SDF member] in Afrin bid farewell to comrades killed during clashes against ISIS. Photo: ARA News

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called on the United States to immediately reverse a decision on arming Syrian Kurdish fighters considered by Ankara to be as “terrorists”.

“I hope very much that this mistake will be reversed immediately,” Erdogan said, after Washington announced it would arm the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) in the fight against militants in Syria.

Erdogan vowed to bring up “our worries” on the issue in talks with US President Donald Trump on May 16 in Washington.

After Trump approved the arms supply to support a campaign to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa, Erdogan told a news conference he wanted to believe that Turkey’s allies would side with Ankara and not with “terrorist organisations”.

Turkey views the Kurdish YPG forces as the Syrian extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

The YPG has been seen by Washington as the best ally against militants in Syria.

“The supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable,” Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told A Haber television on Wednesday. “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 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US counterpart Donald Trump.

The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, despite intense opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Kurds as “terrorists”.

The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government’s view that the Syrian Kurdish YPG as an extension of the PKK.

Washington is eager to retake Raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for ISIS operatives to plan attacks on the West.

Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms Monday. His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS” in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.

The US sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as its most effective battlefield partner against ISIS in northern and eastern Syria. White said they’re “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

Agencies

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