USA seeks to allay Turkish concerns over YPG

US-backed forces prepare for final push on IS-held Raqa

Trump wants to see a quick and decisive military defeat of IS, a goal that makes the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) a precious US partner on the ground.

The Turkish Government considers the YPG to be an integral part of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which both the USA and Turkey designate a terrorist organization.

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. The problem is that Turkey considers the YPG to be a mortal enemy, allied with the PKK, a Kurdish group that the USA and Turkey have named a terrorist organization. That partnership is vital to USA interests in the volatile Middle East.

A U.S. defence official said earlier this week the equipment would include small arms, ammunition, machine guns, armoured vehicles and bulldozers.

The YPG can be an important instrument in achieving a military victory and, thus, Washington is prepared to take the risk of further damaging US relations with Turkey. He is due to meet Trump in Washington on Tuesday.

At the same time, his justice minister brought new evidence to support Turkey's long-standing extradition request for Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Turkish cleric Erdogan holds responsible for a failed coup attempt last July.

Turkey has called for the decision on arming the YPG to be reversed, criticizing what it calls a strategy of using one terrorist group to fight another. The United States was not included in the agreement.

Such support "is not an action suitable to serious states", he said.

The United States sees few alternatives to supporting the YPG, which forms a major part of the Syrian Democratic Forces advancing on Raqqa, if it is to achieve the goal of crushing Islamic State in Syria.

"If we are strategic allies, then we should make decisions in alliance", the Sabah newspaper cited Erdogan as telling reporters on Sunday during a trip to China. Both the Obama administration and the administration of Donald Trump regard the Syrian Kurds as the most effective and appropriate combat partner for the USA in the fight against ISIS. Too exuberant in its support for the Kurds, and the US risks pushing ally Turkey toward USA geopolitical rivals like Russian Federation or emboldening the Kurds to try to create an independent state — a scenario that would destabilize multiple countries in the region.

Erdogan's visit comes amid rising tensions with Turkey.

Angered by a US decision to arm Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan heads to Washington this week for talks with Donald Trump seeking either to change the president's mind or to "sort things out ourselves". The letter borrows heavily from talking points the Turkish Presidency used previously. First, enhanced and increased US assistance against the PKK, without any public expressions of concern about the tactics the Turkish military uses in civilian areas of southeastern Turkey.

Turkey fears weapons delivered to Syrian fighters could end up in the hands of the PKK and be turned on Turkish targets. But for the White House to announce that such shipments are now official policy, and will include heavier equipment such as mortars and armored cars, is a direct warning to Erdogan, who has become increasingly autocratic as a leader-and problematic as an ally-since he put down an attempted coup last summer.

Also Friday, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said that although the USA has no indication of structural problems with the Tabqa dam, it is sending a "dam assessment team" to assess its condition "and ensure it continues operating".

Last month, the Turkish military bombed Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, in one case with American forces only about six miles (10 kilometers) away.

"They can solve their problems in their country", Abdelqader said of Turkey.

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