US Defense Secretary says dialogue with Turkey to continue despite disagreement on Syrian Kurds

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) among supporters. File photo

ARA News

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said on Thursday that the United States will continue extensive dialogue with Turkey despite disagreements just after the decision became public that the US would arm the Syrian Kurds.

The Turkish government has been very concerned about the ongoing cooperation between the US-led coalition and the Syrian Kurds, and the recent decision of the Trump administration to arm the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“We had very open discussion with the Turks.  It’s a NATO ally, and NATO allies stick together. That’s not to say, we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward. We work that out through extensive dialogue. We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks, and it was a very, very useful discussion today,” Mattis said during a press conference with the Danish Minister of Defense.

“We’re getting — as you know — into the position where we will have Raqqa surrounded. The idea is, ladies and gentlemen, that the foreign fighters not be allowed to escape and return to constitute a threat against free and innocent people elsewhere, whether it be in the Arabian Gulf, North Africa, and certainly Europe,” he said.

“By taking, for example, Manbij away from the enemy, that was the spoke of the hub and spoke of their terrorist effort against Europe, and that’s how they conducted the attacks against Brussels and Paris. So our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another to take Raqqa down and we’re going to sort it out and we’ll figure out how we’re going to do it, but we’re all committed to it and that’s what came out of today’s discussion,” the US Defense Secretary said stated.

“And as far as Raqqa, again, we will continue the campaign. There is plenty of work to do for all of us there. And the actual tactical activities on the ground, I don’t want to go into details right now. We owe a degree of confidentiality about our plans,” he concluded.

However, Turkey remains opposed to any decision to arm the Syrian Kurds, one of the most effective forces in the fight against ISIS.

“The U.S. administration still has the opportunity to take Turkey’s sensitivity about the terror organization PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] into consideration,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said May 10, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported.

Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG forces as a Syrian extension of the PKK.

“If a negative decision is taken, its consequences will not only be against Turkey but have a negative impact on the U.S., too,” Yıldırım said.

The Turkish PM is expected to meet the US defence chief in London to discuss the US decision to arm the YPG.

“Every single one of these weapons that will be provided to our partner forces will be accounted for and pointed at ISIS,” Coalition spokesperson Air Force Col. John Dorrian told Pentagon reporters via videoconference from Baghdad on Wednesday.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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