Kurdish-led forces say they will advance on IS capital

Posted May 13, 2017

"I would characterize it as the usual sort of honest, transparent and helpful discussion between two long-term North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies on issues that ... directly impact the security of Turkey, and how we work out the way ahead in regards to the continued offensive" against the terror group known as ISIS or ISIL, Mr. Mattis told reporters in London.

US-backed fighters hunted for militant holdouts in Syria's Tabqa on Thursday after overrunning the city and nearby dam in a step forward for their advance on Islamic State group stronghold Raqa. Turkey wants the arms agreement reversed.

But one crucial steppingstone in the campaign to oust the militant group from Raqqa was finally reached Tuesday, when President Donald Trump made a decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters poised to move in on the northern Syrian city. This week another layer was added as the USA announced it would directly arm Syrian Kurdish fighters engaged in a military campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants in Raqqa. Turkey, along with the US and Europe, lists the party, known as the PKK, as terrorist organization.

"We would like to believe that our allies will prefer to side with us and not with terrorist organizations", Erdogan said in remarks during a press conference with Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma. "We never have and never will", Mr. Mattis added, noting the White House "agree [s] 100 percent with Turkey's concern about PKK".

Shortly before Erdogan's comments, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu asserted that "every weapon seized by [the YPG] is a threat to Turkey", including those that the United States provides.

Turkish media are quoting Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli as saying the USA decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters viewed as terrorists by Turkey is "unacceptable".

Turkey's top diplomat has criticized a US decision to provide arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters, saying every weapon given to them poses a threat to Turkey.

Both Washington and Brussels classify the PKK as a terror group but do not regard the YPG as such.

The SDF is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), seen by the U.S. as an indispensable ally in the fight against IS but considered a "terrorist group" by Turkey. Without that base, the USA would have considerable difficulty operating in the region.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration said it would arm the Kurdish elements of the SDF. The strikes were part of an ongoing counterterrorism operation targeting members of the YPG, some of who could potentially be teamed with US military advisers. The weapons will include small arms, ammunitions, heavy machine guns, and mortars.

A spokesman for the USA -led coalition against IS, Col. John Dorrian, said Wednesday that the weapons would be delivered to the Kurds soon.

The Pentagon said Friday it played no part in an unusual deal in which Islamic State jihadists were allowed to leave a key town in Syria - only for some of them to be killed anyway.

"It doesn't change the fact that when we see ISIS fighters on the battlefield and have a clean shot at them, we will continue to take it".

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.