Erdogan-Trump talks chance to fix Syria disagreement -Turkish PM

The SDF, a multi-ethnic group which includes Kurdish fighters and Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) fighters, had been battling Islamic State for weeks in Tabqa, about 40 kilometers west of Raqqa, with the help of coalition airstrikes and USA special forces advisers. "We do not want any other forces to participate with us". In response, the Americans deployed their troops at the border to prevent the Turks from targeting the YPG and, if you believe the US line, to prevent attacks by the militants against Turkey.

Washington sees the YPG as distinct from the PKK and as a valuable partner in the fight against Islamic State.

Erdogan sent several senior officials, including his military and intelligence chiefs, to Washington for preparatory talks but the Turkish delegation failed to prevent the USA administration's decision to directly arm the YPG.

Meanwhile, Kurdish analyst Mutlu Chiviroglu said the USA considers Turkey's arguments unconvincing, as there is no real threat to Ankara from the Kurdish militia. The question is whether the Turks could indeed take action - which, Turkish officials repeatedly said, they would.

U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, said approximately 70 Islamic State fighters had conceded to the SDF's terms, which included dismantling bombs surrounding the dam, surrendering their heavy weapons and withdrawing all remaining fighters from Tabqa.

The YPG is seen by the USA as an indispensable ally in the fight against ISIL but considered a "terrorist group" by Turkey.

Turkey's Prime Minister has bitterly criticised the USA government over its support for Kurds fighting so-called Islamic State in Syria just a few days ahead of a summit between Donald Trump and is own president. He committed to backing Turkey's fight against the Islamic State group and a Kurdish insurgency known as the PKK, which the US, the European Union and Turkey all consider a terrorist organization.

Most recently, a CHP MP, Öztürk Yılmaz, criticized the governing party and Erdoğan for failing to stand up against the U.S. At the same time, the party is expected to warn the governing party to avoid putting Turkey in the position of North Korea by antagonizing the worldwide community.

Ankara is vehemently opposed to Trump's move and wants the decision reversed in favor of using its own forces. But without engaging in that 14-letter word which has come to be seen as a four-letter word, how will the United States make certain its forces don't have to return again to confront the next incarnation of ISIS? Ankara is afraid that the PKK could use the weapons provided to the YPG against Turkey. "Turkey knows that the US position is serious".

Erdogan vowed to bring up "our worries" on the issue in talks with US President Donald Trump on May 16 in Washington.

He cautioned, however, that Erdogan and his administration have "done things that made our mission more hard", referring to a recent widespread crackdown on human rights in Turkey in the wake of a failed coup, as well as Washington's refusal to immediately extradite a former Erdogan political ally accused of staging the upheaval.

Asked about U.S. pledges of support, Erdogan suggested he will seek further guarantees when he meets Trump. Kurdish Hawar news agency said the Kurdish-led fighters also seized the office of a farmer's union, a local ruling party headquarters and a prison used by the militants. That is not to say that Turkey would not have any problem with Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria even if its Kurdish policy were more moderate, but Turkey would have not faced so many crises in the region in such a case.

The US knew about it, but "it wouldn't have been our preference", the official told AFP.

  • Leroy Wright