Turkey warned the United States on Wednesday that a decision to arm Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria could end up hurting Washington, and accused its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally of siding with terrorists.
It is the first face-to-face meeting between senior USA and Turkish officials since President Trump gave the Pentagon the green light to directly provide arms and heavy weapons to Kurdish militias battling the Islamic State in Syria.
The defense secretary, speaking to reporters aboard a USA military airplane after the meeting in London, characterized the discussions as "honest, transparent and helpful".
The decision to arm the Kurds had already provoked anger in Turkey, which says the YPG are linked to its own domestic Kurdish separatist group the PKK, or Kurdish Workers Party. He said the battle for Raqqa would begin once the group receives the weapons from the US military, adding that he expects the fighters to storm the city in the coming weeks.
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A USA official also told the Reuters news agency that the U.S. was looking to boost intelligence cooperation with Turkey to support its fight against the PKK.
Pentagon chief Jim Mattis sought to allay Turkish concerns, saying the USA would "work out any concerns" with Turkey over security on its Syrian border.
"The battle for Raqqa has restarted after a short stall".
On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called on the U.S.to reverse its decision.
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At least seven civilians were reported killed on Wednesday night by airstrikes allegedly from the US-led coalition in al-Sour town in Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria, said human rights organizations. But the United States is convinced they are the most effective local fighting force against IS. "We want to believe that our allies will prefer to side with us, not with a terrorist organization", he said, adding that he would use his upcoming meeting with President Trump to lobby against the program.
Earlier this week, the Trump administration said it would arm the Kurdish elements of the SDF.
Turkish main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) criticized on Wednesday the United States of America decision, urging President Erdogan to cancel his upcoming visit to the U.S.
It remains unclear whether Turkey will ratchet up its unilateral air campaign against Kurdish targets in Syria. "Every weapon seized by them is a threat to Turkey". Its leaders have railed against any strategy that, in their view, would involve the US using one terrorist group to fight another.
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A report published this week in the Kurdish news outlet Bas News suggests that USA support does not end with providing firearms. Mattis said he had no doubt the two countries could work through the tensions caused by the decision to arm the YPG. He and other officials have said the US will closely monitor the weapons' distribution and insure that they are used only against IS. In a report published Thursday, the Turkish state-run Anadolu News Agency describes the PKK as an "umbrella organization" that "franchises" itself to regional affiliates, making global support of their subgroups more palatable. "We can not accept the presence of terrorist organizations that would threaten the future of the Turkish state". So to the frustration and horror of us Turks, they not only train them for combat but also give them heavy arms that will sooner or later be turned against Turkey in the hands of PKK terrorists.