Published: Sat, May 13, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Kurdish-led forces say they will advance on IS capital

Turkey's president says he expects his upcoming visit to Washington will constitute a new "milestone" for the troubled relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

SDF ranks include the YPG, an organization Ankara considers the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey, the USA, and EU.

Ankara has argued that Washington should switch support for the Raqqa assault from the YPG to Syrian rebels Turkey has trained and led against Islamic State for the past year - despite US scepticism about their military capability.

While the USA -led coalition has already supplied weapons to Arab fighters in the SDF, the White House this week authorized for the first time arming its most powerful element - the Kurdish YPG - to help in the Raqqa assault, infuriating Turkey. And American officials have stressed that the US will try to ensure that the arms supplied to Kurdish fighters aren't smuggled out for separatist attacks on Turkish interests.

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. Turkey also says the suicide bombers who killed scores of civilians in Turkish cities led by Ankara and Istanbul were trained and armed in the Syrian Kurdish stronghold of Kobani. The United States perceives a role for the YPG to play in liberating Raqqa, the Islamic State's "capital", while Turkey has demanded that only Arab and Turkmen fighters participate in that battle.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington next week.

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"From our side, we want to keep good neighborly relations with Turkey", Redur Khalil said in a series of messages from Syria. The YPG has consistently cooperated with the United States, sharing ground intelligence on ISIS targets in Rojava.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis voiced strong support for Turkey's fight against the PKK terror group after talks with Turkey's prime minister on Thursday.

Bashar al-Assad's regime has been accused of making a series of deals with Isis over territory and oil but the evacuation is the first publicly acknowledged agreement struck by US-backed forces. Mattis said he had no doubt the two countries could work through the tensions caused by the decision to arm the YPG.

"We want to let the enemy worry about when our partner forces are going to start, but in the meantime the coalition will continue hammering the enemy anywhere that they can be found as preparatory fires and shaping efforts to help pave the way for the liberation of the city", he said.

The Americans seem to have set their mind on continuing to cooperate with the militant Kurds of northern Syria with the pretext that they can defeat the Daesh radicals with these people, And they seem to think that they will find a way to put Turkish concerns at ease on the issue.

"Both the PKK and YPG are terrorist organizations and they are no different apart from their names", he told a televised news conference. 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. However, the PYD, as well as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has denied any links to the PKK, despite portraits of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan featuring prominently in their training camps.

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