Turkey says USA arms for Syrian Kurds is 'crisis'

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to discuss the issue with Trump when he visits Washington next week.

Turkey has said it is keen to join the battle to recapture Raqa but on condition the offensive does not include Syrian Kurdish fighters.

"The supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable", Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told A Haber television.

"We will work together", Mattis told reporters in Lithuania after touring a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation training site.

Previously, the USA had only provided weapons to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab coalition that includes Syrian rebels and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

During a visit to Montenegro on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said there was no difference between the Syrian Kurdish fighters and the outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey.

According to Reuters, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White acknowledged "the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey", but that "the SDF, partnered with enabling support from United States and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future".

His comments came a day after Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said that the U.S. wants to reassure the people and government of Turkey that it is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

He said the move had come "somewhat late", but would still "provide a strong impetus" to all forces fighting IS.

In the past, the US has supplied the YPG with training, and stopped short of directly providing arms like it has to Arab components of the SDF because of Turkish objections.

It remains to be seen what shadow the issue will cast over the talks between Trump and Erdogan, which have been touted as chance to forge a new partnership between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies. 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 USA laying the groundwork for the meeting.

According to the New York Times, the delegation was informed of the decision to arm the YPG by Trump's national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Both Washington and Brussels classify the PKK as a terror group but do not regard the YPG as such. "They only have different names", he said. "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.

Ankara claims that the YPG in Syria is merely an extension of the PKK, and therefore a terrorist organization.

United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura is set to reconvene peace talks in Geneva on May 16, according to Al Arabiya English, following the agreement reached in Astana last Friday between Russia, Iran and Turkey to implement "de-escalation zones" in Syria.

  • Leroy Wright