Published: Sat, May 13, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

USA reaffirms its commitment to protect Turkey

Kurdish-led Syrian force backed by the USA expects to advance on the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria this summer, a commander said Friday, following a decision by the Trump administration to supply the force with heavier weapons. Since 2015, Erdogan has been pursuing a renewed war on the ultra-leftist, separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in his own country, where Kurds make up some 20 percent of the population.

He also said he would pursue "to the end" Turkey's demand for the extradition of the USA -based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says was behind a failed military coup last July.

The US considers the Kurdish fighters as the most effective group in the fight against Islamic State militants. "Our weapons and equipment are kind of old and we lack modern weapons in the fight against terrorists; this is a much welcome contribution to our forces", he said. Turkey views both as the Syrian affiliates of the terrorist PKK, which has fought a 33-year war against Turkey and is also listed as a terror organization by the USA and EU.

The U.S. -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) have taken the pivotal city of Tabqa and the dam there from Daesh terror group, U.S. Central Command said Thursday, APA reports quoting Anadolu agency. Turkey's daily Hurriyet newspaper argued Friday the decision to arm the Syrian Kurds would "likely poison the Turkish-U.S. alliance in the long run". "I think Washington made such an evaluation when taking this decision". -Turkish relations, which became increasingly strained under former President Barack Obama and have not improved under Trump, but will also affect the final stages of the fight against the Islamic State terror group as well as Turkey's ties with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. "In order to do this, the US evidently prioritized Raqqa over Turkey's objections", Sam Heller, a Beirut-based analyst and fellow at the Century Foundation, told Syria Deeply.

"Right now there are certain moves in the United States coming from the past, such as the weapons assistance to the YPG", he said. 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.

In the past, Turkey has reliably responded to tensions in its ties with Washington by making overtures to Moscow. "We never have and never will". Mattis was speaking after Ankara voiced its strong opposition to a United States decision to arm in Syria the YPG, which Turkey considers an extension of the PKK. The US has already deployed troops to fight alongside the group against ISIL in Syria and protect them from Turkish airstrikes.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be in Washington this week for talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the "de-escalation zones" proposed by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

For President Donald Trump, "taking Raqqa at the earliest possible opportunity" is part of his campaign promise to defeat ISIS quickly.

If there's any improvement in U.S. Turkey supports these zones, but it is wary that regions along its borders held by the YPG with USA and Russian support might be officially declared safe zones by Washington and Moscow.

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