Erdogan hopeful for breakthrough in dispute on arming Kurds

Posted May 15, 2017

"The decision ... is a sign that we have proven ourselves as a reliable ground force against Daesh [ISIS] here in Syria", Jesper Soder, a Swedish volunteer with the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters in Syria, told Syria Deeply.

The Pentagon will supply Kurdish forces with heavy machine guns, armored cars, anti-tank weapons and mortars - supplies regarded as pivotal against an enemy that has fortified itself with trenches, booby traps, vehicle bombs and even tanks taken from Syrian army forces.

This week combined Arab and Kurd forces, backed by the U.S. and United Kingdom, captured the Tabla dam and nearby town in a move that means they are now within striking distance of Raqqa.

The Kurdish-led forces said Friday they expect to advance on Raqqa this summer, following their capture of a strategic town and dam, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the city.

"I can't specify exactly; I believe entering and storming the city will happen at the start of the summer", he said in a news conference in Tabqa city, which the SDF took from ISIL on Wednesday.

He said the battle for Raqqa would begin once the group receives the weapons from the US military, adding that he expects the fighters to storm the city in the coming weeks.

In northern Syria, members of the Islamic State group attacked the road linking the city of Aleppo, the country's largest city, with the rest of the country that is controlled by the government including the capital Damascus.

An worldwide monitoring group and Kurdish media are reporting that Syrian Kurdish-led forces are closing in on the city of Raqqa, the self-declared capital of the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Syria.

Talal Silo, the military spokesman of the SDF, told Xinhua on Friday that the SDF, backed by the US -led anti-terror coalition, has not yet received heavy weaponry.

But Washington backs the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the YPG makes up roughly half, and which has been effective in fighting the IS group. "We hope the USA administration will put a stop to this wrong and turn back from it", he said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster A Haber.

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"We don't want them to give us big words and go behind our backs and say other things".

The SDF is fighting not just ISIS, but also the barbarous Assad regime.

Yıldırım suggested that even Trump's White House team had wanted a different plan for Raqqa, but were rebuffed by staff in the field linked to the old Obama administration.

"The retaking of Mosul and Raqqa is an worldwide security priority", the French government said.

The Turkish government holds that both the groups are tied to the PKK and arming them would have a "negative effect both for Turkey and the US".

The US decision that was taken one week before Erdogan's scheduled visit and during the presence of a Turkish delegation, composed of Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar, Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan, and presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, in the United States represented an unexpected blow to relations between Ankara and Washington, according to what Turkish diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. "I believe these weapons or this support will arrive soon", he said.

Davis said that about 70 ISIS fighters "conceded to SDF terms, which included dismantling improvised explosive devices around the dam, surrendering all of its heavy weapons and forcing the withdrawal of all remaining fighters from Tabqa".

Tabqa residents began returning to their homes on Friday, but Shahhour Zuair, 46, said the situation remained hard.

Davis added, "The coalition tracked fleeing fighters and targeted those that could be safely hit without harming civilians".

Kurdish officials have never said anything about conquering Raqqa for somebody else, and it would be unusual for the group to be willing to commit so heavy to the invasion of a city if they didn't have designs on incorporating it into their self-declared autonomous region. This is why the moniker Syrian Arab Coalition was created by the US military in the first place, to create a constant rhetorical and sometimes real distinction between the Arabs receiving USA weapons and ammunition and the Kurds, that Turkey is fearful that the empowering.