Pentagon tries to ease Turkey's concerns with arming Kurds

The capture of a key Syrian town and a nearby dam from Islamic State group militants undermines the extremist group's ability to defend its de facto capital, Raqqa and disrupts its ability to plan attacks in Western countries, the US -led worldwide coalition said Thursday.

Washington's decision to arm the YPG, the SDF's main faction battling ISIL, reignited a dispute with Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling for an "immediate" reversal.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made clear Thursday that America is committed to protecting Turkey after angering its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally with a deal to arm anti-Islamic State fighters in Syria that Turkey considers terrorists. He said the battle for Raqqa would begin once the group receives the weapons from the USA military, adding that he expects the fighters to storm the city in the coming weeks.

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.

"From our side, we want to keep good neighborly relations with Turkey", Redur Khalil said in a series of messages from Syria.

The Pentagon and State Department will need to work fast to get Turkey to, if not support the decision to arm the Kurds, at least acquiesce to it.

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

"The supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable", Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told A Haber television on Wednesday in a first official reaction to the American decision.

Erdogan is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington on May 16, a meeting he said he hoped "will ensure the stability of the region and will lead us to reach a conclusion compatible with the realities of Syria". The YPG has consistently cooperated with the United States, sharing ground intelligence on ISIS targets in Rojava.

Mattis acknowledged concerns of the Turkish government in Ankara that weapons could end up in the hands of the Kurdish militants in Turkey, known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or the PKK. They are on a collision course and may soon see the repercussions after Erdoğan's USA visit. Turkey views the YPG as an arm of the PKK, an internationally designated "terrorist" organisation that has fought a decades-long war inside Turkey for Kurdish recognition. 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.

The Pentagon on Wednesday said it's preparing to deliver the first cache to the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units, or YPG.

Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a researcher on Kurdish affairs who is now writing a book on Syrian Kurds, told The World Weekly the USA administration made this decision despite Turkish opposition as it "wants to finish the Raqqa operation fast". US officials have indicated that 120 mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities.

"The battle for Raqqa has restarted after a short stall".

As if this was not enough, the spokesman of the coalition forces fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria won't shut up at this critical stage and adds insult to injury by saying the US will not recall the weapons it is issuing to the Syrian Kurds if and when they retake the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa.

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