U.S. committed to Turkey's security, Mattis tells Turkish PM Yildirim

Posted May 15, 2017

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis sought to allay Turkish concerns, saying at a news conference in Lithuania the USA would work very closely with Turkey over security on its border with Syria.

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

Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana W. White said Tuesday the Kurdish component, which makes up more than half of the SDF fighters, would be armed "as necessary to ensure a clear victory" over Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria.

"I hope very much that this mistake will be reversed immediately", Erdogan said, after Washington announced it would arm the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) in the fight against militants in Syria. "The Kurds have been the most effective fighters against ISIS in Syria, but unfortunately they are anathema to Turkey, which sees them as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish separatist group that Turkey has battled since 1984". A US official told Reuters that the USA was looking to boost intelligence cooperation with Turkey to support its fight against the PKK.

A spokesman for the USA -led coalition against ISIS said Wednesday that America would distribute small arms and equipment to Syrian Kurds "very quickly". A high-level Turkish delegation including Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Turkey's spy chief Hakan Fidan has been in the United States laying the groundwork for the meeting.

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President Donald Trump approved arming the Syrian Kurdish militia this week to support the US -led offensive in Raqqa.

In this undated photo released Thursday, May 11, 2017, by Hawar News, the news agency for the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas in Syria, shows fighters from the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces, patrolling on a street in Tabqa, northern Syria. Last month, Erdogan said if Turkey and the United States joined forces, they could turn Raqa into a "graveyard" for Daesh. He has demanded Washington reverse the decision, and said he would take up the issue with Trump.

Dorrian said the arms would be "distributed soon" and would include small arms, ammunition, heavy machine guns and other weapons to eliminate Daesh's vehicle-borne bombs.

The Trump administration has not specified the kinds of arms to be provided. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter, said artillery or surface-to-air missiles would not be provided.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters pose with foreign volunteer fighters inside Tabqa military airport after taking control of it from Islamic State fighters, west of Raqqa city, Syria April 9, 2017.