Kurds welcome U.S. arms, Turkey objects

Published on Wednesday, 10 May 2017 21:27
Written by

BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian Kurdish fighters on Wednesday welcomed the Trump administration’s announcement that it will provide them with heavier arms in order to battle the Islamic State group, but NATO member Turkey, which views the main Syrian Kurdish militia as terrorists, says every weapon the Americans give them is a “threat.”

The dispute could ignite more fighting between the two key American allies in the battle against the extremist group as Syrian Kurdish forces gear up for a major operation to drive the militants from their de facto capital, Raqqa.

A top Syrian Kurdish official hailed the U.S. decision to step up military aid, saying it would “legitimize” the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes Arab fighters.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed the move, saying “every weapon that reaches their hands is a threat toward Turkey,” and that Turkey’s president would raise the issue during a visit to Washington planned for next week.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, which have driven IS from much of northern Syria over the past two years with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes, are among the most effective ground forces battling the extremists.

Ankara says the Kurdish militia known as the YPG, which forms the backbone of the force, is an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, which has been waging a decades-old insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and other Western countries.

Ilham Ahmed, a top official in the Syrian Democratic Forces’ political office, said the decision to provide heavier arms carries “political meaning” and “legitimizes the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

She said the decision is likely to be met with “aggression” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is to visit Washington next week.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim meanwhile told reporters that Turkey cannot accept “direct or indirect” support for the PKK, and that the U.S. should not try to use one terrorist group to defeat another.

“There is still an opportunity for the United States to take Turkey’s sensitivities into consideration. Otherwise, the outcome won’t only affect Turkey, a negative outcome will also emerge for the United States,” he said.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Nation-World on Wednesday, 10 May 2017 21:27. Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2017 21:29.