Erdogan urges USA to 'immediately' reverse decision on arming

The meeting closely follows the USA announcement that it would begin to directly arm "Kurdish elements" of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), its preferred partner in the ground war against Daesh in northern Syria. "They only have different names", Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

Turkey warned the United States on Wednesday that a decision to arm Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria could end up hurting Washington, and accused its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally of siding with terrorists.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that U.S. President Trump had approved the arming of the YPG "as necessary to ensure a clear victory" in a planned operation to retake the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State (IS).

But Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told A Haber television, "We can not accept the presence of terrorist organizations that would threaten the future of the Turkish state".

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday that he could not imagine the United States having to choose between Turkey's strategic partnership and a "terrorist organisation".

"We expect that this mistake is to be rectified", he said, days ahead of a meeting in Washington between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United States counterpart Donald Trump.

A first consignment of weapons is already in place for delivery and could be dispatched to the Kurds "very quickly", said US Colonel John Dorrian, a military spokesman for the US-led coalition.

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington next Tuesday.

He earlier said that after Tabqa is secured, the Syrian Kurdish-led forces will continue operations to "isolate and seize Raqqa".

YPG and Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) members dually comprise the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the US-led worldwide coalition has been supporting in the fight against ISIS.

The SDF, a US-backed group dominated by YPG but which also contains Arab elements, hailed the move and said that receiving United States arms and military equipment would "hasten the defeat" of the Daesh.

A US-led anti-Daesh coalition spokesman told reporters in Washington that the weapons would be "pointed at ISIS [Daesh]".

Mr Yildirim said he could not imagine the U.S. having to choose between Turkey's strategic partnership and a terrorist organisation.

"Turkey's message to the Trump administration was that Turkey reserves the right to take military action", said a senior Turkish official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. "I'm not concerned at all about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance and the relations between our nations", he told reporters, as he toured a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation training site outside Vilnius, Lithuania.

Mattis has played down the friction between the allies, saying that while "it's not always tidy", they will resolve any differences. Unnerved by the Kurdish advances along the border, Turkey sent troops into Syria past year to help allied Syrian forces battle IS and block the SDF.

"Turkey has long considered the YPG the strongest Kurdish fighting force in Syria along that northern border to be affiliated with a terrorist organisation", he said.

  • Leroy Wright